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THE PRUSSIAN OFFICER, and Other Stories. 

AMORES. Poems. 







First pvhlished 1916 
Second Impression 1924 

Printed in Great Britain hy R. & R- Ci.ark, T.imited, EdinlurgK 



Thanks are due to the Editors of the English 
Review and the JVestminster Gazette for 
permission to reprint some of these studies. 



The Crucifix across the Mountains 



On the Lago di Garda — 

I. The Spinner and the Monks . 


II. The Lemon Gardens 


III. The Theatre 


IV. San Gaudenzio 


V. The Dance . . , . 


VI. Il Duro .... 


VII. John 

. 203 

Italians in Exile 

. 225 

The Return Journey .... 




The imperial road to Italy goes from Munich 
across the Tyrol, through Innsbruck and 
Bozen to Verona, over the mountains. Here 
the great processions passed as the emperors 
went South, or came home again from rosy 
Italy to their own Germany. 

And how much has that old imperial vanity 
clung to the German soul ? Did not the 
German kings inherit the empire of bygone 
Rome ? It was not a very real empire, 
perhaps, but the sound was high and splendid. 

Maybe a certain Grossenwahn is inherent 
in the German nature. If only nations would 
realise that they have certain natural character- 
istics, if only they could understand and agree 
to each other's particular nature, how much 
simpler it would all be. 

The imperial procession no longer crosses 


the mountains, going South. That is almost 
forgotten, the road has almost passed out of 
mind. But still it is there, and its signs are 

The crucifixes are there, not mere attributes 
of the road, yet still having something to do 
with it. The imperial processions, blessed by 
the Pope and accompanied by the great bishops, 
must have planted the holy idol like a new 
plant among the mountains, there where it 
multiplied and grew according to the soil, 
and the race that received it. 

As one goes among the Bavarian uplands 
and foothills, soon one realises here is another 
land, a strange religion. It is a strange 
country, remote, out of contact. Perhaps it 
belongs to the forgotten, imperial processions. 

Coming along the clear, open roads that 
lead to the mountains, one scarcely notices the 
crucifixes and the shrines. Perhaps one's 
interest is dead. The crucifix itself is nothing, 
a factory-made piece of sentimentalism. The 
soul ignores it. 

But gradually, one after another looming 
shadowily under their hoods, the crucifixes 
seem to create a new atmosphere over the 



whole of the countryside, a darkness, a weight 
in the air that is so unnaturally bright and 
rare with the reflection from the snows above, 
a darkness hovering just over the earth. So 
rare and unearthly the light is, from the moun- 
tains, full of strange radiance. Then every 
now and again recurs the crucifix, at the 
turning of an open, grassy road, holding a 
shadow and a mystery under its pointed hood. 

I was startled into consciousness one even- 
ing, going alone over a marshy place at the 
foot of the mountains, when the sky was pale 
and unearthly, invisible, and the hills were 
nearly black. At a meeting of the tracks was 
a crucifix, and between the feet of the Christ 
a handful of withered poppies. It was the 
poppies I saw, then the Christ. 

It was an old shrine, the wood-sculpture of 
a Bavarian peasant. The Christ was a peasant 
of the foot of the Alps. He had broad cheek- 
bones and sturdy limbs. His plain, rudi- 
mentary face stared fixedly at the hills, his 
neck was stiffened, as if in resistance to the 
fact of the nails and the cross, which he could 
not escape. It was a man nailed down in 
spirit, but set stubbornly against the bondage 



and the disgrace. He was a man of middle 
age, plain, crude, with some of the meanness 
of the peasant, but also with a kind of dogged 
nobility that does not yield its soul to the 
circumstance. Plain, almost blank in his soul, 
the middle-aged peasant of the crucifix resisted 
unmoving the misery of his position. He did 
not yield. His soul was set, his will was fixed. 
He was himself, let his circumstances be what 
they would, his life fixed down. 

Across the marsh was a tiny square of 
orange-coloured light, from the farm-house 
with the low, spreading roof. I remembered 
how the man and his wife and the children 
worked on till dark, silent and intent, carrying 
the hay in their arms out of the streaming 
thunder-rain into the shed, working silent in 
the soaking rain. 

The body bent forward towards the earth, 
closing round on itself; the arms clasped full 
of hay, clasped round the hay that presses 
soft and close to the breast and the body, that 
pricks heat into the arms and the skin of the 
breast, and fills the lungs with the sleepy scent 
of dried herbs : the rain that falls heavily and 
wets the shoulders, so that the shirt clings to 



the hot, firm skin and the rain comes with 
heavy, pleasant coldness on the active flesh, 
running in a trickle down towards the loins, 
secretly ; this is the peasant, this hot welter of 
physical sensation. And it is all intoxicating. 
It is intoxicating almost like a soporific, like 
a sensuous drug, to gather the burden to one's 
body in the rain, to stumble across the living 
grass to the shed, to relieve one's arms of the 
weight, to throw down the hay on to the heap, 
to feel Hght and free in the dry shed, then to 
return again into the chill, hard rain, to stoop 
again under the rain, and rise to return again 
with the burden. 

It is this, this endless heat and rousedness 
of physical sensation which keeps the body 
full and potent, and flushes the mind with a 
blood heat, a blood sleep. And this sleep, this 
heat of physical experience, becomes at length 
a bondage, at last a crucifixion. It is the life 
and the fulfilment of the peasant, this flow of 
sensuous experience. But at last it drives him 
almost mad, because he cannot escape. 

For overhead there is always the strange 
radiance of the mountains, there is the mystery 
of the icy river rushing through its pink 



shoals into the darkness of the pine-woods, 
there is always the faint tang of ice on the air, 
and the rush of hoarse-sounding water. 

And the ice and the upper radiance of snow 
are brilliant with timeless immunity from the 
flux and the warmth of life. Overhead they 
transcend all life, all the soft, moist fire of the 
blood. So that a man must needs live under 
the radiance of his own negation. 

There is a strange, clear beauty of form 
about the men of the Bavarian highlands, 
about both men and women. They are large 
and clear and handsome in form, with blue 
eyes very keen, the pupil small, tightened, the 
iris keen, like sharp Hght shining on blue ice. 
Their large, full-moulded limbs and erect 
bodies are distinct, separate, as if they were 
perfectly chiselled out of the stuff of life, 
static, cut off. Where they are everything is 
set back, as in a clear frosty air. 

Their beauty is almost this, this strange, 
clean-cut isolation, as if each one of them would 
isolate himself still further and for ever from 
the rest of his fellows. 

Yet they are convivial, they are almost 
the only race with the souls of artists. Still 



they act the mystery plays with instinctive 
fulness of interpretation, they sing strangely 
in the mountain fields, they love make-belief 
and mummery, their processions and religious 
festivals are profoundly impressive, solemn, 
and rapt. 

It is a race that moves on the poles of mystic 
sensual delight. Every gesture is a gesture 
from the blood, every expression is a symbolic 

For learning there is sensuous experience, 
for thought there is myth and drama and 
dancing and singing. Everything is of the 
blood, of the senses. There is no mind. 
The mind is a suffusion of physical heat, it is 
not separated, it is kept submerged. 

At the same time, always, overhead, there 
is the eternal, negative radiance of the snows. 
Beneath is life, the hot jet of the blood playing 
elaborately. But above is the radiance of 
changeless not-being. And life passes away 
into this changeless radiance. Summer and 
the prolific blue-and-white flowering of the 
earth goes by, with the labour and the ecstasy 
of man, disappears, and is gone into brilliance 
that hovers overhead, the radiant cold which 



waits to receive back again all that which has 
passed for the moment into being. 

The issue is too much revealed. It leaves 
the peasant no choice. The fate gleams 
transcendent above him, the brightness of 
eternal, unthinkable not-being. And this our 
life, this admixture of labour and of warm 
experience in the flesh, all the time it is steaming 
up to the changeless brilliance above, the light 
of the everlasting snows. This is the eternal 

Whether it is singing or dancing or play- 
acting or physical transport of love, or vengeance 
or cruelty, or whether it is work or sorrow or 
religion, the issue is always the same at last, 
into the radiant negation of eternity. Hence 
the beauty and completeness, the finality of 
the highland peasant. His figure, his limbs, 
his face, his motion, it is all formed in beauty, 
and it is all completed. There is no flux nor 
hope nor becoming, all /V, once and for all. 
The issue is eternal, timeless, and changeless. 
All being and all passing away is part of the 
issue, which is eternal and changeless. There- 
fore there is no becoming and no passing 
away. Everything is, now and for ever. 



Hence the strange beauty and finality and 
isolation of the Bavarian peasant. 

It is plain in the crucifixes. Here is the 
essence rendered in sculpture of wood. The 
face is blank and stiff, almost expressionless. 
One realises with a start how unchanging and 
conventionalised is the face of the living man 
and woman of these parts, handsome, but 
motionless as pure form. There is also an 
underlying meanness, secretive, cruel. It is 
all part of the beauty, the pure, plastic beauty. 
The body also of the Christus is stiff and con- 
ventionalised, yet curiously beautiful in pro- 
portion, and in the static tension which makes 
it unified into one clear thing. There is no 
movement, no possible movement. The being 
is fixed, finally. The whole body is locked 
in one knowledge, beautiful, complete. It is 
one with the nails. Not that it is languishing 
or dead. It is stubborn, knowing its own 
undeniable being, sure of the absolute reality 
of the sensuous experience. Though he is 
nailed down upon an irrevocable fate, yet, 
within that fate he has the power and the delight 
of all sensuous experience. So he accepts the 
fate and the mystic delight of the senses with 



one will, he is complete and final. His 
sensuous experience is supreme, a consumma- 
tion of life and death at once. 

It is the same at all times, whether it is the 
mowing with the scythe on the hill-slopes, 
or hewing the timber, or steering the raft down 
the river which is all effervescent with ice ; 
whether it is drinking in the Gasthaus, or 
making love, or playing some mummer's part, 
or hating steadily and cruelly, or whether it 
is kneeling in spell-bound subjection in the 
incense-filled church, or walking in the strange, 
dark, subject-procession to bless the fields, or 
cutting the young birch-trees for the feast of 
Frohenleichnam, it is always the same, the 
dark, powerful mystic, sensuous experience is 
the whole of him, he is mindless and bound 
within the absoluteness of the issue, the un- 
changeability of the great icy not-being which 
holds good for ever, and is supreme. 

Passing further away, towards Austria, 
travelling up the Isar, till the stream becomes 
smaller and whiter and the air is colder, the full 
glamour of the northern hills, which are so 
marvellously luminous and gleaming with 
flowers, wanes and gives way to a darkness, a 



sense of ominousness. Up there I saw another 
little Christ, who seemed the very soul of the 
place. The road went beside the river, that 
was seething with snowy ice-bubbles, under the 
rocks and the high, wolf-like pine-trees, be- 
tween the pinkish shoals. The air was cold 
and hard and high, everything was cold and 
separate. And in a little glass case beside the 
road sat a small, hewn Christ, the head resting 
on the hand ; and he meditates, half-wearily, 
doggedly, the eyebrows lifted in strange ab- 
straction, the elbow resting on the knee. 
Detached, he sits and dreams and broods, 
wearing his little golden crown of thorns, and 
his little cloak of red flannel that some peasant 
woman has stitched for him. 

No doubt he still sits there, the small, blank- 
faced Christ in the cloak of red flannel, dream- 
ing, brooding, enduring, persisting. There is 
a wistfulness about him, as if he knew that the 
whole of things was too much for him. There 
was no solution, either, in death. Death did 
not give the answer to the soul's anxiety. That 
which is, is. It does not cease to be when it 
is cut. Death cannot create nor destroy. What 
is, is. 



The little brooding Christ knows this. 
What is he brooding, then ? His static 
patience and endurance is wistful. What is it 
that he secretly yearns for, amid all the placidity 
of fate ? " To be, or not to be,** this may be 
the question, but it is not a question for death 
to answer. It is not a question of living or 
not-living. It is a question of being — to be 
or not to be. To persist or not to persist, 
that is not the question ; neither is it to endure 
or not to endure. The issue, is it eternal not- 
being ? If not, what, then, is being ? For 
overhead the eternal radiance of the snow 
gleams unfailing, it receives the efflorescence 
of all life and is unchanged, the issue is bright 
and immortal, the snowy not-being. What, 
then, is being ? 

As one draws nearer to the turning-point 
of the Alps, towards the culmination and the 
southern slope, the influence of the educated 
world is felt once more. Bavaria is remote in 
spirit, as yet unattached. Its crucifixes are 
old and grey and abstract, small like the kernel 
of the truth. Further into Austria they 
become new, they are painted white, they are 
larger, more obtrusive. They are the expres- 


sions of a later, newer phase, more introspective 
and self-conscious. But still they are genuine 
expressions of the people's soul. 

Often, one can distinguish the work of a 
particular artist here and there in a district. 
In the Zemm valley, in the heart of the Tyrol, 
behind Innsbruck, there are five or six crucifixes 
by one sculptor. He is no longer a peasant 
working out an idea, conveying a dogma. He 
is an artist, trained and conscious, probably 
working in Vienna. He is consciously trying 
to convey a feelings he is no longer striving 
awkwardly to render a truth, a religious fact. 

The chief of his crucifixes stands deep in 
the Klamm, in the dank gorge where it is 
always half-night. The road runs under the 
rock and the trees, half-way up the one side 
of the pass. Below, the stream rushes cease- 
lessly, embroiled among great stones, making 
an endless loud noise. The rock face opposite 
rises high overhead, with the sky far up. So 
that one is walking in a half-night, an under- 
world. And just below the path, where the 
pack-horses go climbing to the remote, infolded 
villages, in the cold gloom of the pass hangs 
the large, pale Christ. He is larger than life- 



size. He has fallen forward, just dead, and 
the weight of the full-grown, mature body 
hangs on the nails of the hands. So the dead, 
heavy body drops forward, sags, as if it would 
tear away and fall under its own weight. 

It is the end. The face is barren with a 
dead expression of weariness, and brutalised 
with pain and bitterness. The rather ugly, 
passionate mouth is set for ever in the dis- 
illusionment of death. Death is the complete 
disillusionment, set like a seal over the whole 
body and being, over the suffering and weari- 
ness and the bodily passion. 

The pass is gloomy and damp, the water 
roars unceasingly, till it is almost like a constant 
pain. The driver of the pack-horses, as he 
comes up the narrow path in the side of the 
gorge, cringes his sturdy cheerfulness as if to 
obliterate himself, drawing near to the large, 
pale Christ, and he takes his hat off as he 
passes, though he does not look up, but keeps 
his face averted from the crucifix. He hurries 
by in the gloom, climbing the steep path after 
his horses, and the large white Christ hangs 
extended above. 

The driver of the pack-horses is afraid. 


The fear is always there in him, in spite of his 
sturdy, healthy robustness. His soul is not 
sturdy. It is blenched and whitened with 
fear. The mountains are dark overhead, the 
water roars in the gloom below. His heart 
is ground between the mill -stones of dread. 
When he passes the extended body of the 
dead Christ he takes off his hat to the Lord 
of Death. Christ is the Deathly One, He is 
Death incarnate. 

And the driver of the pack-horses acknow- 
ledges this deathly Christ as supreme Lord. 
The mountain peasant seems grounded upon 
fear, the fear of death, of physical death. 
Beyond this he knows nothing. His supreme 
sensation is in physical pain, and in its culmina- 
tion. His great climax, his consummation, is 
death. Therefore he worships it, bows down 
before it, and is fascinated by it all the while. 
It is his fulfilment, death, and his approach to 
fulfilment is through physical pain. 

And so these monuments to physical death 
are found everywhere in the valleys. By the 
same hand that carved the big Christ, a little 
further on, at the end of a bridge, was another 
crucifix, a small one. This Christ had a fair 
17 c 


beard, and was thin, and his body was hanging 
almost lightly, whereas the other Christ was 
large and dark and handsome. But in this, 
as well as in the other, was the same neutral 
triumph of death, complete, negative death, so 
complete as to be abstract, beyond cynicism in 
its completeness of leaving off. 

Everywhere is the same obsession with 
the fact of physical pain, accident, and sudden 
death. Wherever a misfortune has befallen 
a man, there is nailed up a little memorial of 
the event, in propitiation of the God of hurt 
and death. A man is standing up to his waist 
in water, drowning in full stream, his arms in 
the air. The Httle painting in its wooden 
frame is nailed to the tree, the spot is sacred 
to the accident. Again, another little crude 
picture fastened to a rock : a tree, falling on a 
man's leg, smashes it like a stalk, while the 
blood flies up. Always there is the strange 
ejaculation of anguish and fear, perpetuated 
in the little paintings nailed up in the place 
of the disaster. 

This is the worship, then, the worship of 
death and the approaches to death, physical 
violence, and pain. There is something crude 



and sinister about it, almost like depravity, 
a form of reverting, turning back along the 
course of blood by which we have come. 

Turning the ridge on the great road to the 
south, the imperial road to Rome, a decisive 
change takes place. The Christs have been 
taking on various different characters, all of 
them more or less realistically conveyed. One 
Christus is very elegant, combed and brushed 
and foppish on his cross, as Gabriele 
D'Annunzio's son posing as a martyred saint. 
The martyrdom of this Christ is according to 
the most polite convention. The elegance 
is very important, and very Austrian. One 
might almost imagine the young man had 
taken up this striking and original position 
to create a delightful sensation among the 
ladies. It is quite in the Viennese spirit. 
There is something brave and keen in it, too. 
The individual pride of body triumphs over 
every difficulty in the situation. The pride 
and satisfaction in the clean, elegant form, the 
perfectly trimmed hair, the exquisite bearing, 
are more important than the fact of death or 
pain. This may be foolish, it is at the same 
time admirable. 



But the tendency of the crucifix, as it nears 
the ridge to the south, is to become weak and 
sentimental. The carved Christs turn up 
their faces and roll back their eyes very 
piteously, in the approved Guido Reni fashion. 
They are overdoing the pathetic turn. They 
are looking to heaven and thinking about 
themselves, in self - commiseration. Others 
again are beautiful as elegies. It is dead 
Hyacinth lifted and extended to view, in all 
his beautiful, dead youth. The young, male 
body droops forward on the cross, like a dead 
flower. It looks as if its only true nature 
were to be dead. How lovely is death, how 
poignant, real, and satisfying! It is the true 
elegiac spirit. 

Then there are the ordinary, factory-made 
Christs, which are not very significant. They 
are as null as the Christs we see represented 
in England, just vulgar nothingness. But 
these figures have gashes of red, a red paint 
of blood, which is sensational. 

Beyond the Brenner, I have only seen 

vulgar or sensational crucifixes. There are 

great gashes on the breast and the knees of 

the Christ-figure, and the scarlet flows out and 




trickles down, till the crucified body has become 
a ghastly striped thing of red and white, just 
a sickly thing of striped red. 

They paint the rocks at the corners of the 
tracks, among the mountains ; a blue and 
white ring for the road to Ginzling, a red 
smear for the way to St. Jakob. So one 
follows the blue and white ring, or the three 
stripes of blue and white, or the red smear, 
as the case may be. And the red on the rocks, 
the dabs of red paint, are of just the same 
colour as the red upon the crucifixes ; so that 
the red upon the crucifixes is paint, and the 
signs on the rocks are sensational, like blood. 

I remember the little brooding Christ of 
the Isar, in his little cloak of red flannel and 
his crown of gilded thorns, and he remains 
real and dear to me, among all this violence 
of representation. 

" Couvre-toi de gloire, Tartarin — couvre- 
toi de flannelle." Why should it please me so 
that his cloak is of red flannel ? 

In a valley near St. Jakob, just over the 

ridge, a long way from the railway, there is 

a very big, important shrine by the roadside. 

It is a chapel built in the baroque manner, 



florid pink and cream outside, with opulent 
small arches. And inside is the most start- 
lingly sensational Christus I have ever seen. 
He is a big, powerful man, seated after the 
crucifixion, perhaps after the resurrection, 
sitting by the grave. He sits sideways, as if 
the extremity were over, finished, the agitation 
done with, only the result of the experience 
remaining. There is some blood on his 
powerful, naked, defeated body, that sits 
rather hulked. But it is the face which is so 
terrifying. It is slightly turned over the 
hulked, crucified shoulder, to look. And the 
look of this face, of which the body has been 
killed, is beyond all expectation horrible. The 
eyes look at one, yet have no seeing in them, 
they seem to see only their own blood. For 
they are bloodshot till the whites are scarlet, 
the iris is purpled. These red, bloody eyes 
with their stained pupils, glancing awfully at 
all who enter the shrine, looking as if to see 
through the blood of the late brutal death, are 
terrible. The naked, strong body has known 
death, and sits in utter dejection, finished, 
hulked, a weight of shame. And what remains 
of life is in the face, whose expression is sinister 




and gruesome, like that of an unrelenting 
criminal violated by torture. The criminal 
look of misery and hatred on the fixed, violated 
face and in the bloodshot eyes is almost im- 
possible. He is conquered, beaten, broken, 
his body is a mass of torture, an unthinkable 
shame. Yet his will remains obstinate and 
ugly, integral with utter hatred. 

It is a great shock to find this figure sitting 
in a handsome, baroque, pink-washed shrine 
in one of those Alpine valleys which to our 
thinking are all flowers and romance, like the 
picture in the Tate Gallery. " Spring in the 
Austrian Tyrol ** is to our minds a vision of 
pristine loveliness. It contains also this Christ 
of the heavy body defiled by torture and death, 
the strong, virile life overcome by physical 
violence, the eyes still looking back bloodshot 
in consummate hate and misery. 

The shrine was well kept and evidently 
much used. It was hung with ex-voto limbs 
and with many gifts. It was a centre of 
worship, of a sort of almost obscene worship. 
Afterwards the black pine-trees and the river 
of that valley seemed unclean, as if an unclean 
spirit lived there. The very flowers seemed 


unnatural, and the white gleam on the 
mountain-tops was a glisten of supreme, cynical 

After this, in the populous valleys, all the 
crucifixes were more or less tainted and vulgar. 
Only high up, where the crucifix becomes 
smaller and smaller, is there left any of the 
old beauty and religion. Higher and higher, 
the monument becomes smaller and smaller, 
till in the snows it stands out like a post, or a 
thick arrow stuck barb upwards. The crucifix 
itself is a small thing under the pointed hood, 
the barb of the arrow. The snow blows 
under the tiny shed, upon the little, exposed 
Christ. All round is the solid whiteness of 
snow, the awful curves and concaves of pure 
whiteness of the mountain top, the hollow 
whiteness between the peaks, where the path 
crosses the high, extreme ridge of the pass. 
And here stands the last crucifix, half buried, 
small and tufted with snow. The guides 
tramp slowly, heavily past, not observing the 
presence of the symbol, making no salute. 
Further down, every mountain peasant lifted 
his hat. But the guide tramps by without con- 
cern. His is a professional importance now. 


On a small mountain track on the Jaufen, 
not far from Meran, was a fallen Christus. 
I was hurrying downhill to escape from an 
icy wind which almost took away my con- 
sciousness, and I was looking up at the gleam- 
ing, unchanging snow-peaks all round. They 
seemed like blades immortal in the sky. So 
I almost ran into a very old Martertafel. It 
leaned on the cold, stony hillside surrounded 
by the white peaks in the upper air. 

The wooden hood was silver-grey with age, 
and covered, on the top, with a thicket of 
lichen, which stuck up in hoary tufts. But 
on the rock at the foot of the post was the 
fallen Christ, armless, who had tumbled down 
and lay in an unnatural posture, the naked, 
ancient wooden sculpture of the body on the 
naked, living rock. It was one of the old 
uncouth Christs hewn out of bare wood, 
having the long, wedge-shaped limbs and t"hin 
flat legs that are significant of the true spirit, 
the desire to convey a religious truth, not a 
sensational experience. 

The arms of the fallen Christ had broken 
off at the shoulders, and they hung on their 
nails, as ex-voto limbs hang in the shrines. 


But these arms dangled from the palms, one 
at each end of the cross, the muscles, carved 
sparely in the old wood, looking all wrong, 
upside down. And the icy wind blew them 
backwards and forwards, so that they gave a 
painful impression, there in the stark, sterile 
place of rock and cold. Yet I dared not 
touch the fallen body of the Christ, that lay 
on its back in so grotesque a posture at the 
foot of the post. I wondered who would 
come and take the broken thing away, and for 
what purpose. 





The Holy Spirit is a Dove, or an Eagle. In 
the Old Testament it was an Eagle ; in the 
New Testament it is a Dove. 

And there are, standing over the Christian 
world, the Churches of the Dove and the 
Churches of the Eagle. There are, moreover, 
the Churches which do not belong to the 
Holy Spirit at all, but which are built to pure 
fancy and logic ; such as the Wren Churches 
in London. 

The Churches of the Dove are shy and 
hidden : they nestle among trees, and their bells 
sound in the mellowness of Sunday ; or they 
are gathered into a silence of their own in the 
very mids:: of the town, so that one passes them 
by without observing them; they are as if 
invisible, offering no resistance to the storming 

of the traffic. 



But the Churches of the Eagle stand high, 
with their heads to the skies, as if they chal- 
lenged the world below. They are the 
Churches of the Spirit of David, and their 
bells ring passionately, imperiously, falling on 
the subservient world below. 

The Church of San Francesco was a Church 
of the Dove. I passed it several times, in the 
dark, silent little square, without knowing it 
was a church. Its pink walls were blind, 
windowless, unnoticeable, it gave no sign, 
unless one caught sight of the tan curtain 
hanging in the door, and the slit of darkness 
beneath. Yet it was the chief church of the 

But the Church of San Tommaso perched 
over the village. Coming down the cobbled, 
submerged street, many a time I looked up 
between the houses and saw the thin old church 
standing above in the light, as if it perched 
on the house-roofs. Its thin grey neck was 
held up stiffly, beyond was a vision of dark 
foliage, and the high hillside. 

I saw it often, and yet for a long time it 
never occurred to me that it actually existed. 
It was like a vision, a thing one does not 


expect to come close to. It was there stand- 
ing away upon the house-tops, against a 
glamour of foliaged hillside. I was submerged 
in the village, on the uneven, cobbled street, 
between old high walls and cavernous shops 
and the houses with flights of steps. 

For a long time I knew how the day went, 
by the imperious clangour of mid-day and 
evening bells striking down upon the houses 
and the edge of the lake. Yet it did not occur 
to me to ask where these bells rang. Till at 
last my everyday trance was broken in upon, 
and I knew the ringing of the Church of San 
Tommaso. The church became a living con- 
nection with me. 

So I set out to find it, I wanted to go to it. 
It was very near. I could see it from the 
piazza by the lake. And the village itself 
had only a few hundreds of inhabitants. The 
church must be within a stone's-throw. 

Yet I could not find it. I went out of the 
back door of the house, into the narrow gully 
of the back street. Women glanced down at 
me from the top of the flights of steps, old 
men stood, half-turning, half-crouching under 
the dark shadow of the walls, to stare. It was 


as if the strange creatures of the under-shadow 
were looking at me. I was of another element. 

The Italian people are called " Children 
of the Sun.** They might better be called 
" Children of the Shadow.** Their souls are 
dark and nocturnal. If they are to be easy, 
they must be able to hide, to be hidden in lairs 
and caves of darkness. Going through these 
tiny, chaotic back-ways of the village was like 
venturing through the labyrinth made by 
furtive creatures, who watched from out of 
another element. And I was pale, and clear, 
and evanescent, like the light, and they were 
dark, and close, and constant, like the shadow. 

So I was quite baffled by the tortuous, 
tiny, deep passages of the village. I could 
not find my way. I hurried towards the 
broken end of a street, where the sunshine 
and the olive trees looked like a mirage before 
me. And there above me I saw the thin, 
stiff neck of old San Tommaso, grey and pale 
in the sun. Yet I could not get up to the 
church, I found myself again on the piazza. 

Another day, however, I found a broken 
staircase, where weeds grew in the gaps the 
steps had made in falling, and maidenhair 


hung on the darker side of the wall. I went 
up unwillingly, because the Italians used this 
old staircase as a privy, as they will any deep 

But I ran up the broken stairway, and 
came out suddenly, as by a miracle, clean 
on the platform of my San Tommaso, in the 
tremendous sunshine. 

It was another world, the world of the 
eagle, the world of fierce abstraction. It was 
all clear, overwhelming sunshine, a platform 
hung in the light. Just below were the 
confused, tiled roofs of the village, and beyond 
them the pale blue water, down below ; and 
opposite, opposite my face and breast, the 
clear, luminous snow of the mountain across 
the lake, level with me apparently, though 
really much above. 

I was in the skies now, looking down from 
my square terrace of cobbled pavement, that 
was worn like the threshold of the ancient 
church. Round the terrace ran a low, broad 
wall, the coping of the upper heaven where 
I had climbed. 

There was a blood-red sail like a butterfly 
breathing down on the blue water, whilst the 
33 D 


earth on the near side gave off a green-silver 
smoke of olive trees, coming up and around 
the earth-coloured roofs. 

It always remains to me that San Tommaso 
and its terrace hang suspended above the 
village, like the lowest step of heaven, of 
Jacob's ladder. Behind, the land rises in a high 
sweep. But the terrace of San Tommaso is let 
down from heaven, and does not touch the earth. 

I went into the church. It was very dark, 
and impregnated with centuries of incense. 
It affected me like the lair of some enormous 
creature. My senses were roused, they sprang 
awake in the hot, spiced darkness. My skin 
was expectant, as if it expected some contact, 
some embrace, as if it were aware of the con- 
tiguity of the physical world, the physical 
contact with the darkness and the heavy, 
suggestive substance of the enclosure. It was 
a thick, fierce darkness of the senses. But my 
soul shrank. 

I went out again. The pavemented 
threshold was clear as a jewel, the marvellous 
clarity of sunshine that becomes blue in the 
height seemed to distil me into itself. 

Across, the heavy mountain crouched along 


the side of the lake, the upper half brilliantly 
white, belonging to the sky, the lower half 
dark and grim. So, then, that is where heaven 
and earth are divided. From behind me, on 
the left, the headland swept down out of a 
great, pale-grey, arid height, through a rush 
of russet and crimson, to the olive smoke and 
the water of the level earth. And between, 
like a blade of the sky cleaving the earth 
asunder, went the pale - blue lake, cleaving 
mountain from mountain with the triumph 
of the sky. 

Then I noticed that a big, blue-checked 
cloth was spread on the parapet before me, 
over the parapet of heaven. I wondered why 
it hung there. 

Turning round, on the other side of the 
terrace, under a caper-bush that hung like a 
blood -stain from the grey wall above her, 
stood a little grey woman whose fingers were 
busy. Like the grey church, she made me 
feel as if I were not in existence. I was 
wandering by the parapet of heaven, looking 
down. But she stood back against the solid 
wall, under the caper-bush, unobserved and 
unobserving. She was like a fragment of 



earth, she was a living stone of the terrace, 
sun-bleached. She took no notice of me, who 
was hesitating looking down at the earth 
beneath. She stood back under the sun- 
bleached solid wall, like a stone rolled down 
and stayed in a crevice. 

Her head was tied in a dark-red kerchief, 
but pieces of hair, like dirty snow, quite short, 
stuck out over her ears. And she was spin- 
ning. I wondered so much, that I could not 
cross towards her. She was grey, and her 
apron, and her dress, and her kerchief, and 
her hands and her face were all sun-bleached 
and sun-stained, greyey, bluey, browny, like 
stones and half-coloured leaves, sunny in their 
colourlessness. In my black coat, I felt 
myself wrong, false, an outsider. 

She was spinning, spontaneously, like a 
little wind. Under her arm she held a distaff 
of dark, ripe wood, just a straight stick with a 
clutch at the end, like a grasp of brown fingers 
full of a fluff of blackish, rusty fleece, held up 
near her shoulder. And her fingers were 
plucking spontaneously at the strands of wool 
drawn down from it. And hanging near her 
feet, spinning round upon a black thread, 



spinning busily, like a thing in a gay wind, 
was her shuttle, her bobbin wound fat with 
the coarse, blackish worsted she was making. 

All the time, like motion without thought, 
her fingers teased out the fleece, drawing it 
down to a fairly uniform thickness : brown, 
old, natural fingers that worked as in a sleep, 
the thumb having a long grey nail ; and from 
moment to moment there was a quick, down- 
ward rub, between thumb and forefinger, of 
the thread that hung in front of her apron, 
the heavy bobbin spun more briskly, and she 
felt again at the fleece as she drew it down, and 
she gave a twist to the thread that issued, and 
the bobbin spun swiftly. 

Her eyes were clear as the sky, blue, 
empyrean, transcendent. They were clear, 
but they had no looking in them. Her face 
was like a sun-worn stone. 

** You are spinning," I said to her. 

Her eyes glanced over me, making no effort 
of attention. 

" Yes," she said. 

She saw merely a man's figure, a stranger, 
standing near. I was a bit of the outside, 
negligible. She remained as she was, clear 


and sustained like an old stone upon the hill- 
side. She stood short and sturdy, looking 
for the most part straight in front, unseeing, 
but glancing from time to time, with a little, 
unconscious attention, at the thread. She 
was slightly more animated than the sunshine 
and the stone and the motionless caper-bush 
above her. Still her fingers went along the 
strand of fleece near her breast. 

" That is an old way of spinning," I said. 

" What ? " 

She looked up at me with eyes clear and 
transcendent as the heavens. But she was 
slightly roused. There was the slight motion 
of the eagle in her turning to look at me, a 
faint gleam of rapt light in her eyes. It was 
my unaccustomed Italian. 

" That is an old way of spinning," I 

" Yes — an old way," she repeated, as if to 
say the words so that they should be natural 
to her. And I became to her merely a tran- 
sient circumstance, a man, part of the sur- 
roundings. We divided the gift of speech, 
that was all. 

She glanced at me again, with her wonder- 



ful, unchanging eyes, that were like the visible 
heavens, unthinking, or like two flowers that 
are open in pure clear unconsciousness. To 
her I was a piece of the environment. That 
was all. Her world was clear and absolute, 
without consciousness of self. She was not 
self-conscious, because she was not aware that 
there was anything in the universe except her 
universe. In her universe I was a stranger, 
a foreign signore. That I had a world of my 
own, other than her own, was not conceived 
by her. She did not care. 

So we conceive the stars. We are told 
that they are other worlds. But the stars are 
the clustered and single gleaming lights in the 
night-sky of our world. When I come home 
at night, there are the stars. When I cease 
to exist as the microcosm, when I begin to 
think of the cosmos, then the stars are other 
worlds. Then the macrocosm absorbs me. 
But the macrocosm is not me. It is something 
which I, the microcosm, am not. 

So that there is something which is un- 
known to me and which nevertheless exists. 
I am finite, and my understanding has limits. 
The universe is bigger than I shall ever see, 


in mind or spirit. There is that which is not 

If I say " The planet Mars is inhabited,*' 
I do not know what I mean by " inhabited," 
with reference to the planet Mars. I can 
only mean that that world is not my world. 
I can only know there is that which is not me. 
I am the microcosm, but the macrocosm is 
that also which I am not. 

The old woman on the terrace in the sun 
did not know this. She was herself the core 
and centre to the world, the sun, and the 
single firmament. She knew that I was an 
inhabitant of lands which she had never seen. 
But what of that 1 There were parts of her 
own body which she had never seen, which 
physiologically she could never see. They 
were none the less her own because she had 
never seen them. The lands she had not 
seen were corporate parts of her own living 
body, the knowledge she had not attained was 
only the hidden knowledge of her own self. 
She was the substance of the knowledge, 
whether she had the knowledge in her mind 
or not. There was nothing which was not 
herself, ultimately. Even the man, the male, 


was part of herself. He was the mobile, 
separate part, but he was none the less herself 
because he was sometimes severed from her. 
If every apple in the world were cut in two, 
the apple would not be changed. The reality 
is the apple, which is just the same in the 
half-apple as in the whole. 

And she, the old spinning-woman, was the 
apple, eternal, unchangeable, whole even in 
her partiality. It was this which gave the 
wonderful clear unconsciousness to her eyes. 
How could she be conscious of herself when 
all was herself? 

She was talking to me of a sheep that had 
died, but I could not understand because of 
her dialect. It never occurred to her that I 
could not understand. She only thought me 
different, stupid. And she talked on. The 
ewes had lived under the house, and a part 
was divided off for the he-goat, because the 
other people brought their she -goats to be 
covered by the he -goat. But how the ewe 
came to die I could not make out. 

Her fingers worked away all the time in a 
little, half- fretful movement, yet spontaneous 
as butterflies leaping here and there. She 


chattered rapidly on in her ItaHan that I could 
not understand, looking meanwhile into my 
face, because the story roused her somewhat. 
Yet not a feature moved. Her eyes remained 
candid and open and unconscious as the skies. 
Only a sharp will in them now and then 
seemed to gleam at me, as if to dominate me. 

Her shuttle had caught in a dead chicory 
plant, and spun no more. She did not notice. 
I stooped and broke off the twigs. There 
was a glint of blue on them yet. Seeing what 
I was doing, she merely withdrew a few inches 
from the plant. Her bobbin hung free. 

She went on with her tale, looking at me 
wonderfully. She seemed like the Creation, 
like the beginning of the world, the first 
morning. Her eyes were like the first morning 
of the world, so ageless. 

Her thread broke. She seemed to take no 
notice, but mechanically picked up the shuttle, 
wound up a length of worsted, connected the 
ends from her wool strand, set the bobbin 
spinning again, and went on talking, in her 
half-intimate, half-unconscious fashion, as if 
she were talking to her own world in me. 

So she stood in the sunshine on the little 


platform, old and yet like the morning, erect 
and solitary, sun-coloured, sun-discoloured, 
whilst I at her elbow, like a piece of night and 
moonshine, stood smiling into her eyes, afraid 
lest she should deny me existence. 

Which she did. She had stopped talking, 
did not look at me any more, but went on with 
her spinning, the brown shuttle twisting gaily. 
So she stood, belonging to the sunshine and 
the weather, taking no more notice of me than 
of the dark-stained caper-bush which hung from 
the wall above her head, whilst I, waiting at her 
side, was like the moon in the daytime sky, over- 
shone, obliterated, in spite of my black clothes. 

" How long has it taken you to do that 
much ? " I asked. 

She waited a minute, glanced at her bobbin. 

" This much ? I don't know. A day or 

" But you do it quickly.** 

She looked at me, as if suspiciously and 
derisively. Then, quite suddenly, she started 
forward and went across the terrace to the 
great blue-and-white checked cloth that was 
drying on the wall. I hesitated. She had 
cut off her consciousness from me. So I 


turned and ran away, taking the steps two at a 
time, to get away from her. In a moment I was 
between the walls, climbing upwards, hidden. 

The school-mistress had told me I should 
find snowdrops behind San Tommaso. If she 
had not asserted such confident knowledge I 
should have doubted her translation of perce- 
neige. She meant Christmas roses all the while. 

However, I went looking for snowdrops. 
The walls broke down suddenly, and I was out 
in a grassy olive orchard, following a track 
beside pieces of fallen overgrown masonry. 
So I came to skirt the brink of a steep little 
gorge, at the bottom of which a stream was 
rushing down its steep slant to the lake. Here 
I stood to look for my snowdrops. The 
grassy, rocky bank went down steep from my 
feet. I heard water tittle-tattling away in 
deep shadow below. There were pale flecks 
in the dimness, but these, I knew, were prim- 
roses. So I scrambled down. 

Looking up, out of the heavy shadow that 
lay in the cleft, I could see, right in the sky, 
grey rocks shining transcendent in the pure 
empyrean. " Are they so far up .'^ " I 
thought. I did not dare to say, " Am I so 


far down ? " But I was uneasy. Neverthe- 
less it was a lovely place, in the cold shadow, 
complete ; when one forgot the shining rocks 
far above, it was a complete, shadowless world 
of shadow. Primroses were everywhere in 
nests of pale bloom upon the dark, steep face 
of the cleft, and tongues of fern hanging out, 
and here and there under the rods and twigs 
of bushes were tufts of wrecked Christmas 
roses, nearly over, but still, in the coldest 
corners, the lovely buds like handfuls of snow. 
There had been such crowded sumptuous tufts 
of Christmas roses everywhere in the stream- 
gullies, during the shadow of winter, that these 
few remaining flowers were hardly noticeable. 

I gathered instead the primroses, that 
smelled of earth and of the weather. There 
were no snowdrops. I had found the day 
before a bank of crocuses, pale, fragile, lilac- 
coloured flowers with dark veins, pricking up 
keenly like myriad little lilac-coloured flames 
among the grass, under the olive trees. And I 
wanted very much to find the snowdrops hang- 
ing in the gloom. But there were not any. 

I gathered a handful of primroses, then I 
climbed suddenly, quickly out of the deep 



watercourse, anxious to get back to the 
sunshine before the evening fell. Up above 
I saw the olive trees in their sunny golden 
grass, and sunlit grey rocks immensely high 
up. I was afraid lest the evening would fall 
whilst I was groping about like an otter in the 
damp and the darkness, that the day of sun- 
shine would be over. 

Soon I was up in the sunshine again, on 
the turf under the olive trees, reassured. It 
was the upper world of glowing light, and I 
was safe again. 

All the olives were gathered, and the mills 
were going night and day, making a great, 
acrid scent of olive oil in preparation, by the 
lake. The little stream rattled down. A 
mule driver " Hued ! " to his mules on the 
Strada Vecchia. High up, on the Strada 
Nuova, the beautiful, new, military high-road, 
which winds with beautiful curves up the 
mountain-side, crossing the same stream several 
times in clear-leaping bridges, travelling cut 
out of sheer slope high above the lake, winding 
beautifully and gracefully forward to the 
Austrian frontier, where it ends : high up on 
the lovely swinging road, in the strong evening 



sunshine, I saw a bullock wagon moving like 
a vision, though the clanking of the wagon 
and the crack of the bullock whip resounded 
close in my ears. 

Everything was clear and sun-coloured up 
there, clear-grey rocks partaking of the sky, 
tawny grass and scrub, browny-green spires 
of cypresses, and then the mist of grey-green 
olives fuming down to the lake-side. There 
was no shadow, only clear sun-substance built 
up to the sky, a bullock wagon moving slowly 
in the high sunlight, along the uppermost 
terrace of the military road. I sat in the warm 
stillness of the transcendent afternoon. 

The four o'clock steamer was creeping 
down the lake from the Austrian end, creeping 
under the cliffs. Far away, the Verona side, 
beyond the Island, lay fused in dim gold. 
The mountain opposite was so still, that my 
heart seemed to fade in its beating, as if it too 
would be still. All was perfectly still, pure 
substance. The little steamer on the floor of 
the world below, the mules down the road cast 
no shadow. They too were pure sun-substance 
travelling on the surface of the sun-made world. 

A cricket hopped near me. Then I re- 


membered that it was Saturday afternoon, 
when a strange suspension comes over the 
world. And then, just below me, I saw two 
monks walking in their garden between the 
naked, bony vines, walking in their wintry 
garden of bony vines and olive trees, their 
brown cassocks passing between the brown 
vine-stocks, their heads bare to the sunshine, 
sometimes a glint of light as their feet strode 
from under their skirts. 

It was so still, everything so perfectly 
suspended, that I felt them talking. They 
marched with the peculiar march of monks, 
a long, loping stride, their heads together, 
their skirts swaying slowly, two brown monks 
with hidden hands, sliding under the bony 
vines and beside the cabbages, their heads 
always together in hidden converse. It was 
as if I were attending with my dark soul to 
their inaudible undertone. All the time I sat 
still in silence, I was one with them, a partaker, 
though I could hear no sound of their voices. 
I went with the long stride of their skirted 
feet, that slid springless and noiseless from 
end to end of the garden, and back again. 
Their hands were kept down at their sides, 


hidden in the long sleeves and the skirts of 
their robes. They did not touch each other, 
nor gesticulate as they walked. There was 
no motion save the long, furtive stride and the 
heads leaning together. Yet there was an 
eagerness in their conversation. Almost like 
shadow-creatures ventured out of their cold, 
obscure element, they went backwards and 
forwards in their wintry garden, thinking 
nobody could see them. 

Across, above them, was the faint, rousing 
dazzle of snow. They never looked up. But 
the dazzle of snow began to glow as they 
walked, the wonderful, faint, ethereal flush of 
the long range of snow in the heavens, at 
evening, began to kindle. Another world 
was coming to pass, the cold, rare night. It 
was dawning in exquisite, icy rose upon the 
long mountain-summit opposite. The monks 
walked backwards and forwards, talking, in 
the first undershadow. 

And I noticed that up above the snow, 
frail in the bluish sky, a frail moon had put 
forth, like a thin, scalloped film of ice floated 
out on the slow current of the coming night. 
And a bell sounded. 

49 B 


And still the monks were pacing backwards 
and forwards, backwards and forwards, with 
a strange, neutral regularity. 

The shadows were coming across every- 
thing, because of the mountains in the west. 
Already the olive wood where I sat was ex- 
tinguished. This was the world of the monks, 
the rim of pallor between night and day. Here 
they paced, backwards and forwards, back- 
wards and forwards, in the neutral, shadowless 
light of shadow. 

Neither the flare of day nor the completeness 
of night reached them, they paced the narrow 
path of the twilight, treading in the neutrality 
of the law. Neither the blood nor the spirit 
spoke in them, only the law, the abstraction 
of the average. The infinite is positive and 
negative. But the average is only neutral. 
And the monks trod backward and forward 
down the line of neutrality. 

Meanwhile, on the length of mountain- 
ridge, the snow grew rosy-incandescent, like 
heaven breaking into blossom. After all, 
eternal not-being and eternal being are the 
same. In the rosy snow that shone in heaven 
over a darkened earth was the ecstasy of con- 


summation. Night and day are one, light and 
dark are one, both the same in the origin and 
in the issue, both the same in the moment of 
ecstasy, light fused in darkness and darkness 
fused in light, as in the rosy snow above the 

But in the monks it was not ecstasy, in 
them it was neutrality, the under earth. Tran- 
scendent, above the shadowed, twilit earth was 
the rosy snow of ecstasy. But spreading far 
over us, down below, was the neutrality of 
the twilight, of the monks. The flesh neutral- 
ising the spirit, the spirit neutralising the flesh, 
the law of the average asserted, this was the 
monks as they paced backward and forward. 

The moon climbed higher, away from the 
snowy, fading ridge, she became gradually 
herself. Between the roots of the olive tree 
was a rosy-tipped daisy just going to sleep. I 
gathered it and put it among the frail, moony 
little bunch of primroses, so that its sleep 
should warm the rest. Also I put in some 
little periwinkles, that were very blue, remind- 
ing me of the eyes of the old woman. 

The day was gone, the twilight was gone, 
and the snow was invisible as I came down to 


the side of the lake. Only the moon, white 
and shining, was in the sky, like a woman 
glorying in her own loveliness as she loiters 
superbly to the gaze of all the world, looking 
sometimes through the fringe of dark olive 
leaves, sometimes looking at her own superb, 
quivering body, wholly naked in the water 
of the lake. 

My little old woman was gone. She, all 
day-sunshine, would have none of the moon. 
Always she must live like a bird, looking down 
on all the world at once, so that it lay all 
subsidiary to herself, herself the wakeful con- 
sciousness hovering over the world like a hawk, 
like a sleep of wakefulness. And, like a bird, 
she went to sleep as the shadows came. 

She did not know the yielding up of the 
senses and the possession of the unknown, 
through the senses, which happens under a 
superb moon. The all-glorious sun knows 
none of these yieldings up. He takes his way. 
And the daisies at once go to sleep. And the 
soul of the old spinning-woman also closed 
up at sunset, the rest was a sleep, a cessation. 

It is all so strange and varied : the dark- 
skinned Italians ecstatic in the night and the 


moon, the blue-eyed old woman ecstatic in 
the busy sunshine, the monks in the garden 
below, who are supposed to unite both, passing 
only in the neutrality of the average. Where, 
then, is the meeting-point : where in mankind 
is the ecstasy of light and dark together, the 
supreme transcendence of the afterglow, day 
hovering in the embrace of the coming night 
like two angels embracing in the heavens, like 
Eurydice in the arms of Orpheus, or Persephone 
embraced by Pluto ? 

Where is the supreme ecstasy in mankind, 
which makes day a delight and night a deHght, 
purpose an ecstasy and a concourse in ecstasy, 
and single abandon of the single body and soul 
also an ecstasy under the moon ? Where is 
the transcendent knowledge in our hearts, 
uniting sun and darkness, day and night, 
spirit and senses ? Why do we not know that 
the two in consummation are one ; that each 
is only part ; partial and alone for ever ; but 
that the two in consummation are perfect, 
beyond the range of loneliness or solitude ? 




The padrone came just as we were drinking 
coffee after dinner. It was two o'clock, 
because the steamer going down the lake to 
Desenzano had bustled through the sunshine, 
and the rocking of the water still made lights 
that danced up and down upon the wall among 
the shadows by the piano. 

The signore was very apologetic. I found 
him bowing in the hall, cap in one hand, a 
slip of paper in the other, protesting eagerly, 
in broken French, against disturbing me. 

He is a little, shrivelled man, with close- 
cropped grey hair on his skull, and a pro- 
truding jaw, which, with his gesticulations, 
always makes me think of an ancient, aristo- 
cratic monkey. The signore is a gentleman, 
and the last, shrivelled representative of his 


race. His only outstanding quality, according 
to the villagers, is his avarice. 

** Mais — mais, monsieur — je crains que — 
que — que je vous derange " 

He spreads, wide his hands and bows, 
looking up at me with implicit brown eyes, 
so ageless in his wrinkled, monkey's face, like 
onyx. He loves to speak French, because 
then he feels grand. He has a queer, naive, 
ancient passion to be grand. As the remains 
of an impoverished family, he is not much 
better than a well-to-do peasant. But the old 
spirit is eager and pathetic in him. 

He loves to speak French to me. He holds 
his chin and waits, in his anxiety for the phrase 
to come. Then it stammers forth, a little 
rush, ending in Italian. But his pride is all on 
edge : we must continue in French. 

The hall is cold, yet he will not come into 
the large room. This is not a courtesy visit. 
He is not here in his quality of gentleman. 
He is only an anxious villager. 

" Voyez, monsieur — cet — cet — qu'est-ce 
que — qu'est-ce que veut dire cet — cela ? " 

He shows me the paper. It is an old scrap 
of print, the picture of an American patent 


door-spring, with directions : " Fasten the 
spring either end up. Wind it up. Never 

It is laconic and American. The signore 
watches me anxiously, waiting, holding his 
chin. He is afraid he ought to understand 
my English. I stutter off into French, con- 
founded by the laconic phrases of the directions. 
Nevertheless, I make it clear what the paper 

He cannot believe me. It must say some- 
thing else as well. He has not done anything 
contrary to these directions. He is most 

** Mais, monsieur, la porte — la porte — elle 
ferme fas — elle s'ouvre " 

He skipped to the door and showed me the 
whole tragic mystery. The door, it is shut — 
ecco ! He releases the catch, and pouf ! — she 
flies open. She flies open. It is quite final. 

The brown, expressionless, ageless eyes, 
that remind me of a monkey's, or of onyx, 
wait for me. I feel the responsibility devolve 
upon me. I am anxious. 

" Allow me," I said, ** to come and look 
at the door." 



I feel uncomfortably like Sherlock Holmes. 
The padrone protests — non, monsieur, non, 
cela vous derange — that he only wanted me 
to translate the words, he does not want to 
disturb me. Nevertheless, we go. I feel I 
have the honour of mechanical England in 
my hands. 

The Casa di Paoli is quite a splendid place. 
It is large, pink and cream, rising up to a square 
tower in the centre, throwing off a painted 
loggia at either extreme of the facade. It 
stands a little way back from the road, just 
above the lake, and grass grows on the bay of 
cobbled pavement in front. When at night 
the moon shines full on this pale facade, the 
theatre is far outdone in staginess. 

The hall is spacious and beautiful, with 
great glass doors at either end, through which 
shine the courtyards where bamboos fray the 
sunlight and geraniums glare red. The floor 
is of soft red tiles, oiled and polished like 
glass, the walls are washed grey-white, the 
ceiling is painted with pink roses and birds. 
This is half-way between the outer world and 
the interior world, it partakes of both. 

The other rooms are dark and ugly. There 


is no mistake about their being interior. 
They are like furnished vaults. The red-tiled, 
polished floor in the drawing-room seems cold 
and clammy, the carved, cold furniture stands 
in its tomb, the air has been darkened and 
starved to death, it is perished. 

Outside, the sunshine runs like birds sing- 
ing. Up above, the grey rocks build the sun- 
substance in heaven, San Tommaso guards 
the terrace. But inside here is the immemorial 

Again I had to think of the Italian soul, 
how it is dark, cleaving to the eternal night. 
It seems to have become so, at the Renaissance, 
after the Renaissance. 

In the Middle Ages Christian Europe 
seems to have been striving, out of a strong, 
primitive, animal nature, towards the self- 
abnegation and the abstraction of Christ. 
This brought about by itself a great sense of 
completeness. The two halves were joined by 
the effort towards the one as yet unrealised. 
There was a triumphant joy in the Whole. 

But the movement all the time was in one 
direction, towards the elimination of the flesh. 
Man wanted more and more to become purely 



free and abstract. Pure freedom was in pure 
abstraction. The Word was absolute. When 
man became as the Word, a pure law, then he 
was free. 

But when this conclusion was reached, the 
movement broke. Already Botticelli painted 
Aphrodite, queen of the senses, supreme 
along with Mary, Queen of Heaven. And 
Michael Angelo suddenly turned back on the 
whole Christian movement, back to the flesh. 
The flesh was supreme and god-like, in the 
oneness of the flesh, in the oneness of our 
physical being, we are one with God, with 
the Father. God the Father created man in 
the flesh, in His own image. Michael Angelo 
swung right back to the old Mosaic position. 
Christ did not exist. To Michael Angelo 
there was no salvation in the spirit. There 
was God the Father, the Begetter, the Author 
of all flesh. And there was the inexorable 
law of the flesh, the Last Judgment, the fall 
of the immortal flesh into Hell. 

This has been the Italian position ever 

since. The mind, that is the Light ; the 

senses, they are the Darkness. Aphrodite, 

the queen of the senses, she, born of the sea- 



foam, is the luminousness of the gleaming 
senses, the phosphorescence of the sea, the 
senses become a conscious aim unto them- 
selves ; she is the gleaming darkness, she is 
the luminous night, she is goddess of destruc- 
tion, her white, cold fire consumes and does 
not create. 

This is the soul of the Italian since the 
Renaissance. In the sunshine he basks asleep, 
gathering up a vintage into his veins which 
in the night-time he will distil into ecstatic 
sensual delight, the intense, white-cold ecstasy 
of darkness and moonlight, the raucous, cat- 
like, destructive enjoyment, the senses con- 
scious and crying out in their consciousness in 
the pangs of the enjoyment, which has con- 
sumed the southern nation, perhaps all the 
Latin races, since the Renaissance. 

It is a lapse back, back to the original 
position, the Mosaic position, of the divinity 
of the flesh, and the absoluteness of its laws. 
But also there is the Aphrodite-worship. The 
flesh, the senses, are now self-conscious. They 
know their aim. Their aim is in supreme 
sensation. They seek the maximum of sensa- 
tion. They seek the reduction of the flesh, the 


flesh reacting upon itself, to a crisis, an ecstasy, 
a phosphorescent transfiguration in ecstasy. 

The mind, all the time, subserves the senses. 
As in a cat, there is subtlety and beauty and 
the dignity of the darkness. But the fire is 
cold, as in the eyes of a cat, it is a green 
fire. It is fluid, electric. At its maximum it 
is the white ecstasy of phosphorescence, in the 
darkness, always amid the darkness, as under 
the black fur of a cat. Like the feline fire, it 
is destructive, always consuming and reducing to 
the ecstasy of sensation, which is the end in itself. 

There is the I, always the L And the mind 
is submerged, overcome. But the senses are 
superbly arrogant. The senses are the ab- 
solute, the god-like. For I can never have 
another man*s senses. These are me, my 
senses absolutely me. And all that is can only 
come to me through my senses. So that all 
is me, and is administered unto me. The 
rest, that is not me, is nothing, it is something 
which is nothing. So the Italian, through 
centuries, has avoided our Northern purposive 
industry, because it has seemed to him a form 
of nothingness. 

It is the spirit of the tiger. The tiger is 



^e 1 

the supreme manifestation of the senses made 
absolute. This is the 

Tiger, tiger, burning bright. 
In the forests of the night 

of Blake. It does indeed burn within the dark- 
ness. But the essential fire of the tiger is cold and 
white, a white ecstasy. It is seen in the white 
eyes of the blazing cat. This is the supremacy 
of the flesh, which devours all, and becomes 
transfigured into a magnificent brindled flame, 
a burning bush indeed. 

This is one way of transfiguration into the 
eternal flame, the transfiguration through 
ecstasy in the flesh. Like the tiger in the 
night, I devour all flesh, I drink all blood, 
until this fuel blazes up in me to the consum- 
mate fire of the Infinite. In the ecstasy I am 
Infinite, I become again the great Whole, I am 
a flame of the One White Flame which is the 
Infinite, the Eternal, the Originator, the Creator, 
the Everlasting God. In the sensual ecstasy, 
having drunk all blood and devoured all flesh, 
I am become again the eternal Fire, I am infinite. 

This is the way of the tiger ; the tiger is 
supreme. His head is flattened as if there 
were some great weight on the hard skull, 


pressing, pressing, pressing the mind into a 
stone, pressing it down under the blood, to 
serve the blood. It is the subjugate instru- 
ment of the blood. The will lies above the 
loins, as it were at the base of the spinal column, 
there is the living will, the living mind of the 
tiger, there in the slender loins. That is the 
node, there in the spinal cord. 

So the Italian, so the soldier. This is the 
spirit of the soldier. He, too, walks with his 
consciousness concentrated at the base of the 
spine, his mind subjugated, submerged. The 
will of the soldier is the will of the great cats, 
the will to ecstasy in destruction, in absorbing 
life into his own life, always his own life 
supreme, till the ecstasy burst into the white, 
eternal flame, the Infinite, the Flame of the 
Infinite. Then he is satisfied, he has been 
consummated in the Infinite. 

This is the true soldier, this is the immortal 
climax of the senses. This is the acme of the 
flesh, the one superb tiger who has devoured 
all living flesh, and now paces backwards and 
forwards in the cage of its own infinite, glaring 
with blind, fierce, absorbed eyes at that which 
is nothingness to it. 



The eyes of the tiger cannot see, except 
with the light from within itself, by the light 
of its own desire. Its own white, cold light is 
so fierce that the other warm light of day is 
outshone, it is not, it does not exist. So the 
white eyes of the tiger gleam to a point of 
concentrated vision, upon that which does not 
exist. Hence its terrifying sightlessness. The 
something which I know I am is hollow space 
to its vision, offers no resistance to the tiger's 
looking. It can only see of me that which it 
knows I am, a scent, a resistance, a voluptuous 
solid, a struggling warm violence that it holds 
overcome, a running of hot blood between its 
jaws, a delicious pang of live flesh in the mouth. 
This it sees. The rest is not. 

And what is the rest, that which is-not the 
tiger, that which the tiger is-not .'' What is 
this ? 

What is that which parted ways with the 
terrific eagle-like angel of the senses at the 
Renaissance ? The Italians said, " We are 
one in the Father : we will go back." The 
Northern races said, " We are one in Christ : 
we will go on." 

What is the consummation in Christ ? 



Man knows satisfaction when he surpasses all 
conditions and becomes, to himself, con- 
sum.mate in the Infinite, when he reaches a 
state of infinity. In the supreme ecstasy of 
the flesh, the Dionysic ecstasy, he reaches this 
state. But how does it come to pass in Christ ? 
It is not the mystic ecstasy. The mystic 
ecstasy is a special sensual ecstasy, it is the 
senses satisfying themselves with a self-created 
object. It is self- projection into the self, 
the sensuous self satisfied in a projected 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom 
of heaven. 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' 
sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

The kingdom of heaven is this Infinite 
into which we may be consummated, then, if 
we are poor in spirit or persecuted for righteous- 
ness' sake. 

Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to 
him the other also. 

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good 
to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully 
use you, and persecute you. 

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is 
in heaven is perfect. 

65 F 


To be perfect, to be one with God, to be in- 
finite and eternal, what shall we do ? We must 
turn the other cheek, and love our enemies. 

Christ is the lamb which the eagle swoops 
down upon, the dove taken by the hawk, the 
deer which the tiger devours. 

What then, if a man come to me with a 
sword, to kill me, and I do not resist him, but 
suffer his sword and the death from his sword, 
what am I r Am I greater than he, am I 
stronger than he ? Do I know a consummation 
in the Infinite, I, the prey, beyond the tiger 
who devours me ? By my non-resistance I 
have robbed him of his consummation. For 
a tiger knows no consummation unless he kill 
a violated and struggling prey. There is no 
consummation merely for the butcher, nor for 
a hyena. I can rob the tiger of his ecstasy, 
his consummation, his very raisort d'etre^ by my 
non-resistance. In my non-resistance the tiger 
is infinitely destroyed. 

But I, what am I ? " Be ye therefore 
perfect." Wherein am I perfect in this sub- 
mission } Is there an affirmation, behind my 
negation, other than the tiger's affirmation of 
his own glorious infinity } 


What is the Oneness to which I subscribe, 
I who offer no resistance in the flesh ? 

Have I only the negative ecstasy of being 
devoured, of becoming thus part of the Lord, 
the Great Moloch, the superb and terrible 
God ? I have this also, this subject ecstasy of 
consummation. But is there nothing else ? 

The Word of the tiger is : my senses are 
supremely Me, and my senses are God in me. 
But Christ said : God is in the others, who are 
not-me. In all the multitude of the others is 
God, and this is the great God, greater than 
the God which is Me. God is that which is 

And this is the Christian truth, a truth 
complementary to the pagan affirmation : 
" God is that which is Me." 

God is that which is Not-Me. In realising 
the Not-Me I am consummated, I become 
infinite. In turning the other cheek I submit 
to God who is greater than I am, other than I 
am, who is in that which is not me. This is 
the supreme consummation. To achieve this 
consummation I love my neighbour as myself. 
My neighbour is all that is not me. And if 
I love all this, have I not become one with 



the Whole, is not my consummation complete, 
am I not one with God, have I not achieved 
the Infinite ? 

After the Renaissance the Northern races 
continued forward, to put into practice this 
religious belief in the God which is Not-Me. 
Even the idea of the saving of the soul was 
really negative : it was a question of escaping 
damnation. The Puritans made the last great 
attack on the God who is Me. When they 
beheaded Charles the First, the king by Divine 
Right, they destroyed, symbolically, for ever, 
the supremacy of the Me who am the image 
of God, the Me of the flesh, of the senses, Me, 
the tiger burning bright, me the king, the Lord, 
the aristocrat, me who am divine because I 
am the body of God. 

After the Puritans, we have been gathering 
data for the God who is not-me. When Pope 
said, " Know then thyself, presume not God 
to scan. The proper study of mankind is Man," 
he was stating the proposition : A man is right, 
he is consummated, when he is seeking to 
know Man, the great abstract ; and the method 
of knowledge is by the analysis, which is the 
destruction, of the Self. The proposition up 


to that time was, a man is the epitome of the 
universe. He has only to express himself, to 
fulfil his desires, to satisfy his supreme senses. 

Now the change has come to pass. The 
individual man is a limited being, finite in 
himself. Yet he is capable of apprehending 
that which is not himself. ** The proper 
study of mankind is Man.** This is another 
way of saying, *' Thou shalt love thy neighbour 
as thyself.** Which means, a man is con- 
summated in his knowledge of that which is 
not himself, the abstract Man. Therefore the 
consummation lies in seeking that other, in 
knowing that other. Whereas the Stuart 
proposition was : " A man is consummated in 
expressing his own Self.** 

The new spirit developed into the empirical 
and ideal systems of philosophy. Everything 
that is, is consciousness. And in every man*s 
consciousness, Man is great and illimitable, 
whilst the individual is small and fragmentary. 
Therefore the individual must sink himself in 
the great whole of Mankind. 

This is the spirituality of Shelley, the per- 
fectibility of man. This is the way in which 
we fulfil the commandment, " Be ye therefore 



perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven 
is perfect." This is Saint Paul's, " Now I 
know in part ; but then shall I know even as 
I am known." 

When a man knows everything and under- 
stands everything, then he will be perfect, 
and life will be blessed. He is capable of 
knowing everything and understanding every- 
thing. Hence he is justified in his hope of 
infinite freedom and blessedness. 

The great inspiration of the new religion 
was the inspiration of freedom. When I have 
submerged or distilled away my concrete body 
and my limited desires, when I am like the 
skylark dissolved in the sky yet filling heaven 
and earth with song, then I am perfect, con- 
summated in the Infinite. When I am all 
that is not-me, then I have perfect liberty, I 
know no limitation. Only I must eliminate 
the Self. 

It was this religious belief which expressed 
itself in science. Science was the analysis of 
the outer self, the elementary substance of the 
self, the outer world. And the machine is 
the great reconstructed selfless power. Hence 
the active worship to which we were given at 


the end of the last century, the worship of 
mechanised force. 

Still we continue to worship that which is 
not-me, the Selfless world, though we would 
fain bring in the Self to help us. We are 
shouting the Shakspearean advice to warriors, 
" Then simulate the action of the tiger." We 
are trying to become again the tiger, the 
supreme, imperial, warlike Self. At the same 
time our ideal is the selfless world of equity. 

We continue to give service to the Selfless 
God, we worship the great selfless oneness in 
the spirit, oneness in service of the great 
humanity, that which is Not-Me. This selfless 
God is He Who works for all alike, without 
consideration. And His image is the machine 
which dominates and cows us, we cower before 
it, we run to serve it. For it works for all 
humanity alike. 

At the same time, we want to be warlike 
tigers. That is the horror : the confusing 
of the two ends. W^e warlike tigers fit our- 
selves out with machinery, and our blazing 
tiger wrath is emitted through a machine. It 
is a horrible thing to see machines hauled 
about by tigers, at the mercy of tigers, forced 



to express the tiger. It is a still more horrible 
thing to see tigers caught up and entangled 
and torn in machinery. It is horrible, a 
chaos beyond chaos, an unthinkable hell. 

The tiger is not wrong, the machine is not 
wrong, but we, liars, lip -servers, duplicate 
fools, we are unforgivably wrong. We say : 
*' I will be a tiger because I love mankind ; 
out of love for other people, out of selfless 
service to that which is not me, I will even 
become a tiger." Which is absurd. A tiger 
devours because it is consummated in devour- 
ing, it achieves its absolute self in devouring. 
It does not devour because its unselfish con- 
science bids it do so, for the sake of the other 
deer and doves, or the other tigers. 

Having arrived at the one extreme of 
mechanical selflessness, we immediately em- 
brace the other extreme of the transcendent 
Self. But we try to be both at once. We do 
not cease to be the one before we become the 
other. We do not even play the roles in turn. 
We want to be the tiger and the deer both in 
one. Which is just ghastly nothingness. We 
try to say, " The tiger is the lamb and the lamb 
is the tiger." Which is nil, nihil, nought. 


The padrone took me into a small room 
almost contained in the thickness of the wall. 
There the Signora's dark eyes glared with 
surprise and agitation, seeing me intrude. 
She is younger than the Signore, a mere village 
tradesman's daughter, and, alas, childless. 

It was quite true, the door stood open. 
Madame put down the screw-driver and drew 
herself erect. Her eyes were a flame of excite- 
ment. This question of a door-spring that 
made the door fly open when it should make it 
close roused a vivid spark in her soul. It 
was she who was wrestling with the angel of 

She was about forty years old, and flame-like 
and fierily sad. I think she did not know 
she was sad. But her heart was eaten by some 
impotence in her life. 

She subdued her flame of life to the little 
padrone. He was strange and static, scarcely 
human, ageless, like a monkey. She supported 
him with her flame, supported his static, 
ancient, beautiful form, kept it intact. But 
she did not believe in him. 

Now, the Signora Gemma held her husband 
together whilst he undid the screw that fixed 


the spring. If they had been alone, she would 
have done it, pretending to be under his 
direction. But since I was there, he did it 
himself; a grey, shaky, highly-bred little 
gentleman, standing on a chair with a long 
screw-driver, whilst his wife stood behind him, 
her hands half-raised to catch him if he should 
fall. Yet he was strangely absolute, with a 
strange, intact force in his breeding. 

They had merely adjusted the strong spring 
to the shut door, and stretched it slightly in 
fastening it to the door-jamb, so that it drew 
together the moment the latch was released, 
and the door flew open. 

We soon made it right. There was a 
moment of anxiety, the screw was fixed. And 
the door swung to. They were delighted. 
The Signora Gemma, who roused in me an 
electric kind of melancholy, clasped her hands 
together in ecstasy as the door swiftly shut itself. 

" Ecco ! *' she cried, in her vibrating, almost 
warlike woman's voice : " Ecco ! " 

Her eyes were aflame as they looked at 
the door. She ran forward to try it herself. 
She opened the door expectantly, eagerly. 
Pouf ! — it shut with a bang. 


" Ecco ! " she cried, her voice quivering 
like bronze, overwrought but triumphant. 

I must try also. I opened the door. 
Pouf ! It shut with a bang. We all exclaimed 
with joy. 

Then the Signor di Paoli turned to me, 
with a gracious, bland, formal grin. He 
turned his back slightly on the woman, and 
stood holding his chin, his strange horse-mouth 
grinning almost pompously at me. It was 
an affair of gentlemen. His wife disappeared 
as if dismissed. Then the padrone broke 
into cordial motion. We must drink. 

He would show me the estate. I had 
already seen the house. We went out by the 
glass doors on the left, into the domestic 

It was lower than the gardens round it, 
and the sunshine came through the trellised 
arches on to the flagstones, where the grass 
grew fine and green in the cracks, and all 
was deserted and spacious and still. There 
were one or two orange-tubs in the light. 

Then I heard a noise, and there in the 
corner, among all the pink geraniums and the 
sunshine, the Signora Gemma sat laughing 


with a baby. It was a fair, bonny thing ot 
eighteen months. The Signora was concen- 
trated upon the child as he sat, stolid and 
handsome, in his little white cap, perched on 
a bench picking at the pink geraniums. 

She laughed, bent forward her dark face 
out of the shadow, swift into a glitter of sun- 
shine near the sunny baby, laughing again 
excitedly, making mother-noises. The child 
took no notice of her. She caught him 
swiftly into the shadow, and they were ob- 
scured ; her dark head was against the baby's 
wool jacket, she was kissing his neck, avidly, 
under the creeper leaves. The pink gera- 
niums still frilled joyously in the sunshine. 

I had forgotten the padrone. Suddenly 
I turned to him enquiringly. 

** The Signora's nephew," he explained, 
briefly, curtly, in a small voice. It was as 
if he were ashamed, or too deeply chagrined. 

The woman had seen us watching, so she 
came across the sunshine with the child, laugh- 
ing, talking to the baby, not coming out of 
her own world to us, not acknowledging us, 
except formally. 

The Signor Pietro, queer old horse, began 



to laugh and neigh at the child, with strange, 
rancorous envy. The child twisted its face 
to cry. The Signora caught it away, dancing 
back a few yards from her old husband. 

** I am a stranger," I said to her across the 
distance. " He is afraid of a stranger.'* 

** No, no," she cried back, her eyes flaring 
up. ** It is the man. He always cries at 
the men." 

She advanced again, laughing and roused, 
with the child in her arms. Her husband 
stood as if overcast, obliterated. She and I 
and the baby, in the sunshine, laughed a 
moment. Then I heard the neighing, forced 
laugh of the old man. He would not be 
left out. He seemed to force himself forward. 
He was bitter, acrid with chagrin and oblitera- 
tion, struggling as if to assert his own existence. 
He was nulHfied. 

The woman also was uncomfortable. I 
could see she wanted to go away with the 
child, to enjoy him alone, with palpitating, 
pained enjoyment. It was her brother's boy. 
And the old padrone was as if nullified by her 
ecstasy over the baby. He held his chin, 
gloomy, fretful, unimportant. 


He was annulled. I was startled when I 
realised it. It was as though his reality were 
not attested till he had a child. It was as if 
his raison d'etre had been to have a son. And 
he had no children. Therefore he had no 
raison d'etre. He was nothing, a shadow that 
vanishes into nothing. And he was ashamed, 
consumed by his own nothingness. 

I was startled. This, then, is the secret 
of Italy's attraction for us, this phallic worship. 
To the Italian the phallus is the symbol of 
individual creative immortality, to each man 
his own Godhead. The child is but the 
evidence of the Godhead. 

And this is why the Italian is attractive, 
supple, and beautiful, because he worships 
the Godhead in the flesh. We envy him, we 
feel pale and insignificant beside him. Yet 
at the same time we feel superior to him, as 
if he were a child and we adult. 

Wherein are we superior } Only because we 
went beyond the phallus in the search of the 
Godhead, the creative origin. And we found 
the physical forces and the secrets of science. 

We have exalted Man far above the man 
who is in each one of us. Our aim is a perfect 



humanity, a perfect and equable human con- 
sciousness, selfless. And we obtain it in the 
subjection, reduction, analysis, and destruction 
of the Self. So on we go, active in science and 
mechanics, and social reform. 

But we have exhausted ourselves in the 
process. We have found great treasures, and 
we are now impotent to use them. So we 
have said : " What good are these treasures, 
they are vulgar nothings." We have said : 
" Let us go back from this adventuring, let 
us enjoy our own flesh, like the Italian.** 
But our habit of life, our very constitution, 
prevents our being quite like the Italian. 
The phallus will never serve us as a God- 
head, because we do not believe in it : no 
Northern race does. Therefore, either we 
set ourselves to serve our children, calling 
them " the future," or else we turn perverse 
and destructive, give ourselves joy in the 
destruction of the flesh. 

The children are not the future. The 
living truth is the future. Time and people 
do not make the future. Retrogression is 
not the future. Fifty million children growing 
up purposeless, with no purpose save the 


attainment of their own individual desires, 
these are not the future, they are only a dis- 
integration of the past. The future is in living, 
growing truth, in advancing fulfilment. 

But it is no good. Whatever we do, it is 
within the greater will towards self-reduction 
and a perfect society, analysis on the one hand, 
and mechanical construction on the other. 
This will dominates us as a whole, and until 
the whole breaks down, the will must persist. 
So that now, continuing in the old, splendid 
will for a perfect selfless humanity, we have 
become inhuman and unable to help ourselves, 
we are but attributes of the great mechanised 
society we have created on our way to perfection. 
And this great mechanised society, being self- 
less, is pitiless. It works on mechanically and 
destroys us, it is our master and our God. 

It is past the time to leave off, to cease 
entirely from what we are doing, and from 
what we have been doing for hundreds of 
years. It is past the time to cease seeking 
one Infinite, ignoring, striving to eliminate the 
other. The Infinite is twofold, the Father and 
the Son, the Dark and the Light, the Senses 
and the Mind, the Soul and the Spirit, the 


self and the not-self, the Eagle and the Dove, 
the Tiger and the Lamb. The consummation 
of man is twofold, in the Self and in Selfless- 
ness. By great retrogression back to the 
source of darkness in me, the Self, deep in 
the senses, I arrive at the Original, Creative 
Infinite. By projection forth from myself, by 
the elimination of my absolute sensual self, I 
arrive at the Ultimate Infinite, Oneness in 
the Spirit. They are two Infinites, twofold 
approach to God. And man must know both. 

But he must never confuse them. They 
are eternally separate. The lion shall never 
lie down with the lamb. The lion eternally 
shall devour the lamb, the lamb eternally shall 
be devoured. Man knows the great consum- 
mation in the flesh, the sensual ecstasy, and 
that is eternal. Also the spiritual ecstasy 
of unanimity, that is eternal. But the two 
are separate and never to be confused. To 
neutralise the one with the other is unthinkable, 
an abomination. Confusion is horror and 

The two Infinites, negative and positive, they 
are always related, but they are never identical. 
They are always opposite, but there exists a 
8i G 


relation between them. This is the Holy 
Ghost of the Christian Trinity. And it is 
this, the relation which is established between 
the two Infinites, the two natures of God, 
which we have transgressed, forgotten, sinned 
against. The Father is the Father, and the 
Son is the Son. I may know the Son and 
deny the Father, or know the Father and deny 
the Son. But that which I may never deny, 
and which I have denied, is the Holy Ghost 
which relates the dual Infinites into One 
Whole, which relates and keeps distinct the 
dual natures of God. To say that the two are 
one, this is the inadmissible lie. The two are 
related, by the intervention of the Third, into 
a Oneness. 

There are two ways, there is not only One. 
There are two opposite ways to consummation. 
But that which relates them, like the base of 
the triangle, this is the constant, the Absolute, 
this makes the Ultimate Whole. And in 
the Holy Spirit I know the Two Ways, the 
Two Infinites, the Two Consummations. 
And knowing the Two, I admit the Whole. 
But excluding One, I exclude the Whole. 
And confusing the two, I make nullity, nihil. 


" Mais," said the Signore, starting from 
his scene of ignominy, where his wife played 
with another man's child, " mais — voulez-vous 
vous promener dans mes petites terres ? " 

It came out fluently, he was so much roused 
in self-defence and self-assertion. 

We walked under the pergola of bony 
vine-stocks, secure in the sunshine within the 
walls, only the long mountain, parallel with 
us, looking in. 

I said how I liked the big vine-garden, I 
asked when it ended. The pride of the 
padrone came back with a click. He pointed 
me to the terrace, to the great shut lemon- 
houses above. They were all his. But — he 
shrugged his Italian shoulders — it was nothing, 
just a little garden, vous savez, monsieur. I 
protested it was beautiful, that I loved it, and 
that it seemed to me very large indeed. He 
admitted that to-day, perhaps, it was beautiful. 

" Perch^ — parceque — il fait un tempo — 
cosi — tres belF — tres beau, ecco ! '* 

He alighted on the word " beau " hurriedly, 
like a bird coming to ground with a little 

The terraces of the garden are held up 



to the sun, the sun falls full upon them, 
they are like a vessel slanted up, to catch the 
superb, heavy light. Within the walls we 
are remote, perfect, moving in heavy spring 
sunshine, under the bony avenue of vines. 
The padrone makes little exclamatory noises 
that mean nothing, and teaches me the names 
of vegetables. The land is rich and black. 

Opposite us, looking down on our security, 
is the long, arched mountain of snow. We 
climbed one flight of steps, and we could see 
the little villages on the opposite side of the 
lake. We climbed again, and could see the 
water rippling. 

We came to a great stone building that I 
had thought was a storehouse, for open-air 
storage, because the walls are open half-way 
up, showing the darkness inside and the 
corner pillar very white and square and distinct 
in front of it. 

Entering carelessly into the dimness, I 
started, for at my feet was a great floor of 
water, clear and green in its obscurity, going 
down between the walls, a reservoir in the 
gloom. The Signore laughed at my surprise. 
It was for irrigating the land, he said. It 



stank, slightly, with a raw smell ; otherwise, 
I said, what a wonderful bath it would make. 
The old Signore gave his little neighing laugh 
at the idea. 

Then we climbed into a great loft of leaves, 
ruddy brown, stored in a great bank under the 
roof, seeming to give off a little red heat, as 
they gave off the lovely perfume of the hills. 
We passed through, and stood at the foot 
of the lemon-house. The big, blind building 
rose high in the sunshine before us. 

All summer long, upon the mountain slopes 
steep by the lake, stand the rows of naked 
pillars rising out of the green foliage like ruins 
of temples: white, square pillars of masonry, 
standing forlorn in their colonnades and squares, 
rising up the mountain-sides here and there, 
as if they remained from some great race that 
had once worshipped here. And still, in the 
winter, some are seen, standing away in lonely 
places where the sun streams full, grey rows 
of pillars rising out of a broken wall, tier above 
tier, naked to the sky, forsaken. 

They are the lemon plantations, and the 
pillars are to support the heavy branches of 
the trees, but finally to act as scaffolding of 



the great wooden houses that stand blind and 
ugly, covering the lemon trees in the winter. 

In November, when cold winds came down 
and snow had fallen on the mountains, from 
out of the storehouses the men were carrying 
timber, and we heard the clang of falling 
planks. Then, as we walked along the military 
road on the mountain - side, we saw below, 
on the top of the lemon gardens, long, thin 
poles laid from pillar to pillar, and we heard 
the two men talking and singing as they 
walked across perilously, placing the pales. 
In their clumsy zoccoli they strode easily 
across, though they had twenty or thirty feet 
to fall if they slipped. But the mountain-side, 
rising steeply, seemed near, and above their 
heads the rocks glowed high into the sky, 
so that the sense of elevation must have been 
taken away. At any rate, they went easily 
from pillar-summit to pillar-summit, with a 
great cave of space below. Then again was 
the rattle and clang of planks being laid in 
order, ringing from the mountain-side over 
the blue lake, till a platform of timber, old 
and brown, projected from the mountain-side, 
a floor when seen from above, a hanging roof 


when seen from below. And we, on the road 
above, saw the men sitting easily on this flimsy 
hanging platform, hammering the planks. 
And all day long the sound of hammering 
echoed among the rocks and olive woods, and 
came, a faint, quick concussion, to the men on 
the boats far out. When the roofs were on 
they put in the fronts, blocked in between the 
white pillars with old, dark wood, in roughly 
made panels. And here and there, at irregular 
intervals, was a panel of glass, pane overlapping 
pane in the long strip of narrow window. So 
that now these enormous, unsightly buildings 
bulge out on the mountain-sides, rising in two 
or three receding tiers, blind, dark, sordid- 
looking places. 

In the morning I often lie in bed and watch 
the sunrise. The lake lies dim and milky, 
the mountains are dark blue at the back, while 
over them the sky gushes and glistens with 
light. At a certain place on the mountain 
ridge the light burns gold, seems to fuse a 
little groove on the hill's rim. It fuses and 
fuses at this point, till of a sudden it comes, 
the intense, molten, living light. The moun- 
tains melt suddenly, the light steps down, 



there is a glitter, a spangle, a clutch of spangles, 
a great unbearable sun -track flashing across 
the milky lake, and the light falls on my face. 
Then, looking aside, I hear the little slotting 
noise which tells me they are opening the 
lemon gardens, a long panel here and there, 
a long slot of darkness at irregular intervals 
between the brown wood and the glass stripes. 

** Voulez-vous ** — the Signore bows me in 
with outstretched hand — " voulez-vous entrer, 
monsieur ? " 

I went into the lemon-house, where the 
poor trees seem to mope in the darkness. It 
is an immense, dark, cold place. Tall lemon 
trees, heavy with half- visible fruit, crowd 
together, and rise in the gloom. They look 
like ghosts in the darkness of the under- 
world, stately, and as if in life, but only grand 
shadows of themselves. And lurking here 
and there, I see one of the pillars. But he, 
too, seems a shadow, not one of the dazzling 
white fellows I knew. Here we are, trees, 
men, pillars, the dark earth, the sad black 
paths, shut in in this enormous box. It is 
true, there are long strips of window and slots 
of space, so that the front is striped, and an 


occasional beam of light fingers the leaves of 
an enclosed tree and the sickly round lemons. 
But it is nevertheless very gloomy. 

*' But it is much colder in here than outside," 
I said. 

" Yes," replied the Signore, " now. But 
at night — I think " 

I almost wished it were night to try. I 
wanted to imagine the trees cosy. They 
seemed now in the underworld. Between the 
lemon trees, beside the path, were little orange 
trees, and dozens of oranges hanging like hot 
coals in the twilight. When I warm my hands 
at them the Signore breaks me off one twig 
after another, till I have a bunch of burning 
oranges among dark leaves, a heavy bouquet. 
Looking down the Hades of the lemon-house, 
the many ruddy-clustered oranges beside the 
path remind me of the lights of a village along 
the lake at night, while the pale lemons above 
are the stars. There is a subtle, exquisite 
scent of lemon flowers. I'hen I notice a 
citron. He hangs heavy and bloated upon so 
small a tree, that he seems a dark green enor- 
mity. There is a great host of lemons over- 
head, half-visible, a swarm of ruddy oranges 



by the paths, and here and there a fat citron. 
It is almost like being under the sea. 

At the corners of the path were round little 
patches of ash and stumps of charred wood, 
where fires had been kindled inside the house 
on cold nights. For during the second and 
third weeks in January the snow came down 
so low on the mountains that, after climbing 
for an hour, I found myself in a snow lane, and 
saw olive orchards on lawns of snow. 

The padrone says that all lemons and sweet 
oranges are grafted on a bitter-orange stock. 
The plants raised from seed, lemon and sweet 
orange, fell prey to disease, so the cultivators 
found it safe only to raise the native bitter 
orange, and then to graft upon it. 

And the maestra — she is the schoolmistress, 
who wears black gloves while she teaches us 
Italian — says that the lemon was brought by 
St. Francis of Assisi, who came to the Garda 
here and founded a church and a monastery. 
Certainly the church of San Francesco is very 
old and dilapidated, and its cloisters have some 
beautiful and original carvings of leaves and 
fruit upon the pillars, which seem to connect San 
Francesco with the lemon. I imagine him wan- 


dering here with a lemon in his pocket. Perhaps 
he made lemonade in the hot summer. But 
Bacchus had been before him in the drink trade. 

Looking at his lemons, the Signore sighed. 
I think he hates them. They are leaving him 
in the lurch. They are sold retail at a half- 
penny each all the year round. " But that is 
as dear, or dearer, than in England," I say. 
" Ah, but," says the maestra, ** that is because 
your lemons are outdoor fruit from Sicily. 
Per6 — one of our lemons is as good as two 
from elsewhere." 

It is true these lemons have an exquisite 
fragrance and perfume, but whether their 
force as lemons is double that of an ordinary 
fruit is a question. Oranges are sold at four- 
pence halfpenny the kilo — it comes about ^y^ 
for twopence, small ones. The citrons are 
sold also by weight in Salo for the making of 
that liqueur known as ** Cedro." One citron 
fetches sometimes a shilling or more, but then 
the demand is necessarily small. So that it 
is evident, from these figures, the Lago di 
Garda cannot afford to grow its lemons much 
longer. The gardens are already many of 
them in ruins, and still more *' Da Vendere." 


We went out of the shadow of the lemon- 
house on to the roof of the section below us. 
When we came to the brink of the roof I sat 
down. The padrone stood behind me, a 
shabby, shaky little figure on his roof in the 
sky, a little figure of dilapidation, dilapidated 
as the lemon-houses themselves. 

We were always level with the mountain- 
snow opposite. A film of pure blue was on 
the hills to the right and the left. There had 
been a wind, but it was still now. The water 
breathed an iridescent dust on the far shore, 
where the villages were groups of specks. 

On the low level of the world, on the lake, 
an orange-sailed boat leaned slim to the dark- 
blue water, which had flecks of foam. A woman 
went down-hill quickly, with two goats and a 
sheep. Among the olives a man was whistling. 

" Voyez," said the padrone, with distant, 
perfect melancholy. ** There was once a 
lemon garden also there — you see the short 
pillars, cut off to make a pergola for the vine. 
Once there were twice as many lemons as now. 
Now we must have vine instead. From that 
piece of land I had two hundred lire a year, in 
lemons. From the vine I have only eighty." 


" But wine is a valuable crop,*' I said. 

" Ah — cos\-cos\ ! For a man who grows 
much. For me — poco, poco — peu.** 

Suddenly his face broke into a smile of 
profound melancholy, almost a grin, like a 
gargoyle. It was the real Italian melancholy, 
very deep, static. 

" Vous voyez, monsieur — the lemon, it 
is all the year, all the year. But the vine — 
one crop ? " 

He lifts his shoulders and spreads his hands 
with that gesture of finality and fatality, while 
his face takes the blank, ageless look of misery, 
like a monkey's. There is no hope. There 
is the present. Either that is enough, the 
present, or there is nothing. 

I sat and looked at the lake. It was 
beautiful as paradise, as the first creation. On 
the shores were the ruined lemon - pillars 
standing out in melancholy, the clumsy, 
enclosed lemon -houses seemed ramshackle, 
bulging among vine stocks and olive trees. 
The villages, too, clustered upon their 
churches, seemed to belong to the past. 
They seemed to be lingering in bygone 



" But it is very beautiful," I protested. 
" In England " 

** Ah, in England," exclaimed the padrone, 
the same ageless, monkey-like grin of fatality, 
tempered by cunning, coming on his face, " in 
England you have the wealth — les richesses — 
you have the mineral coal and the machines, 
vous savez. Here, we have the sun " 

He lifted his withered hand to the sky, to 
the wonderful source of that blue day, and he 
smiled, in histrionic triumph. But his triumph 
was only histrionic. The machines were more 
to his soul than the sun. He did not know 
these mechanisms, their great, human - con- 
trived, inhuman power, and he wanted to know 
them. As for the sun, that is comm.on 
property, and no man is distinguished by it. 
He wanted machines, machine - production, 
money, and human power. He wanted to 
know the joy of man who has got the earth 
in his grip, bound it up with railways, burrowed 
it with iron fingers, subdued it. He wanted 
this last triumph of the ego, this last reduction. 
He wanted to go where the English have 
gone, beyond the Self, into the great inhuman 
Not-Self, to create the great unliving creators, 


the machines, out of the active forces of nature 
that existed before flesh. 

But he is too old. It remains for the young 
Italian to embrace his mistress, the machine. 

I sat on the roof of the lemon-house, with 
the lake below and the snowy mountain 
opposite, and looked at the ruins on the old, 
olive-fuming shores, at all the peace of the 
ancient world still covered in sunshine, and 
the past seemed to me so lovely that one must 
look towards it, backwards, only backwards, 
where there is peace and beauty and no more 

I thought of England, the great mass of 
London, and the black, fuming, laborious 
Midlands and north - country. It seemed 
horrible. And yet, it was better than the 
padrone, this old, monkey-like cunning of 
fatality. It is better to go forward into error 
than to stay fixed inextricably in the past. 

Yet what should become of the world ? 
There was London and the industrial counties 
spreading like a blackness over all the world, 
horrible, in the end destructive. And the 
Garda was so lovely under the sky of sunshine, 
it was intolerable. For away, beyond, beyond 


all the snowy Alps, with the iridescence of 
eternal ice above them, was this England, 
black and foul and dry, with her soul worn 
down, almost worn away. And England was 
conquering the world with her machines and 
her horrible destruction of natural life. She 
was conquering the whole world. 

And yet, was she not herself finished in 
this work ? She had had enough. She had 
conquered the natural life to the end : she was 
replete with the conquest of the outer world, 
satisfied with the destruction of the Self. She 
would cease, she would turn round; or else expire. 

If she still lived, she would begin to build 
her knowledge into a great structure of truth. 
There it lay, vast masses of rough-hewn know- 
ledge, vast masses of machines and appliances, 
vast masses of ideas and methods, and nothing 
done with it, only teeming swarms of dis- 
integrated human beings seething and perishing 
rapidly away amongst it, till it seems as if a 
world will be left covered with huge ruins, and 
scored by strange devices of industry, and quite 
dead, the people disappeared, swallowed up 
in the last efforts towards a perfect, selfless, 




During carnival a company is playing in the 
theatre. On Christmas Day the padrone 
came in with the key of his box, and would 
we care to see the drama ? The theatre was 
small, a mere nothing, in fact ; a mere affair 
of peasants, you understand ; and the Signor 
Di Paoli spread his hands and put his head on 
one side, parrot-wise ; but we might find a 
little diversion — un feu de divertiment. With 
this he handed me the key. 

I made suitable acknowledgments, and 
was really impressed. To be handed the key 
of a box at the theatre, so simply and pleasantly, 
in the large sitting-room looking over the grey 
lake of Christmas Day ; it seemed to me a 
very graceful event. The key had a chain 
and a little shield of bronze, on which was 
beaten out a large figure 8. 

97 H 


So the next day we went to see / Spettri^ 
expecting some good, crude melodrama. The 
theatre is an old church. Since that triumph 
of the deaf and dumb, the cinematograph, has 
come to give us the nervous excitement of 
speed, — grimace, agitation, and speed, as of 
flying atoms, chaos, — many an old church in 
Italy has taken a new lease of life. 

This cast-off church made a good theatre. 
I realised how cleverly it had been constructed 
for the dramatic presentation of religious 
ceremonies. The east end is round, the walls 
are windowless, sound is well distributed. 
Now everything is theatrical, except the stone 
floor and two pillars at the back of the audi- 
torium, and the slightly ecclesiastical seats 

There are two tiers of little boxes in the 
theatre, some forty in all, with fringe and red 
velvet, and lined with dark red paper, quite 
like real boxes in a real theatre. And the 
padrone's is one of the best. It just holds 
three people. 

We paid our threepence entrance fee in 
the stone hall and went upstairs. I opened 
the door of Number 8, and we were shut in 



our little cabin, looking down on all the world. 
Then I found the barber, Luigi, bowing 
profusely in a box opposite. It was necessary 
to make bows all round: ah, the chemist, 
on the upper tier, near the barber ; how-do- 
you-do to the padrona of the hotel, who is 
our good friend, and who sits, wearing a little 
beaver shoulder-cape, a few boxes off; very 
cold salutation to the stout village magistrate 
with the long brown beard, who leans forward 
in the box facing the stage, while a grouping 
of faces look out from behind him ; a warm 
smile to the family of the Signora Gemma, 
across next to the stage. Then we are settled. 

I cannot tell why I hate the village magis- 
trate. He looks like a family portrait by a 
Flemish artist, he himself weighing down the 
front of the picture with his portliness and his 
long brown beard, whilst the faces of his family 
are arranged in two groups for the background. 
I think he is angry at our intrusion. He is 
very republican and self-important. But we 
eclipse him easily, with the aid of a large black 
velvet hat; and black furs, and our Sunday 

Downstairs the villagers are crowding, 


drifting like a heavy current. The women are 
seated, by church instinct, all together on the 
left, with perhaps an odd man at the end of a 
row, beside his wife. On the right, sprawling 
in the benches, are several groups of bersaglieri, 
in grey uniforms and slanting cock's-feather 
hats ; then peasants, fishermen, and an odd 
couple or so of brazen girls taking their places 
on the men's side. 

At the back, lounging against the pillars 
or standing very dark and sombre, are the 
more reckless spirits of the village. Their 
black felt hats are pulled down, their cloaks 
are thrown over their mouths, they stand very 
dark and isolated in their moments of stillness, 
they shout and wave to each other when any- 
thing occurs. 

The men are clean, their clothes are all 
clean washed. The rags of the poorest 
porter are always well washed. But it is 
Sunday to-morrow, and they are shaved only 
on a Sunday. So that they have a week's 
black growth on their chins. But they have 
dark, soft eyes, unconscious and vulnerable. 
They move and balance with loose, heedless 
motion upon their clattering zoccoli, they 


lounge with wonderful ease against the wall 
at the back, or against the two pillars, un- 
conscious of the patches on their clothes or of 
their bare throats, that are knotted perhaps 
with a scarlet rag. Loose and abandoned, 
they lounge and talk, or they watch with wistful 
absorption the play that is going on. 

They are strangely isolated in their own 
atmosphere, and as if revealed. It is as if 
their vulnerable being was exposed and they 
have not the wit to cover it. There is a pathos 
of physical sensibility and mental inadequacy. 
Their mind is not sufficiently alert to run with 
their quick, warm senses. 

The men keep together, as if to support 
each other the women also are together; in 
a hard, strong herd. It is as if the power, the 
hardness, the triumph, even in this Italian 
village, were with the women in their relentless, 
vindictive unity. 

That which drives men and women together, 
the indomitable necessity, is like a bondage 
upon the people. They submit as under 
compulsion, under constraint. They come 
together mostly in anger and in violence of 
destructive passion. There is no comradeship 



between men and women, none whatsoever, 
but rather a condition of battle, reserve, 

On Sundays the uncomfortable, excited, 
unwilling youth walks for an hour with his 
sweetheart, at a little distance from her, on 
the public highway in the afternoon. This is 
a concession to the necessity for marriage. 
There is no real courting, no happiness of 
being together, only the roused excitement 
which is based on a fundamental hostility. 
There is very little flirting, and what there is 
is of the subtle, cruel kind, like a sex duel. 
On the whole, the men and women avoid each 
other, almost shun each other. Husband and 
wife are brought together in a child, which 
they both worship. But in each of them there 
is only the great reverence for the infant, and 
the reverence for fatherhood or motherhood, 
as the case may be ; there is no spiritual love. 

In marriage, husband and wife wage the 
subtle, satisfying war of sex upon each other. 
It gives a profound satisfaction, a profound 
intimacy. But it destroys all joy, all un- 
animity in action. 

On Sunday afternoons the uncomfortable 



youth walks by the side of his maiden for an 
hour in the public highway. Then he escapes ; 
as from a bondage he goes back to his men 
companions. On Sunday afternoons and even- 
ings the married woman, accompanied by a 
friend or by a child — she dare not go alone, 
afraid of the strange, terrible sex-war between 
her and the drunken man — is seen leading 
home the wine-drunken, liberated husband. 
Sometimes she is beaten when she gets home. 
It is part of the process. But there is no 
synthetic love between men and women, there 
is only passion, and passion is fundamental 
hatred, the act of love is a fight. 

The child, the outcome, is divine. Here 
the union, the oneness, is manifest. Though 
spirit strove with spirit, in mortal conflict, 
during the sex-passion, yet the flesh united 
with flesh in oneness. The phallus is still 
divine. But the spirit, the mind of man, this 
has become nothing. 

So the women triumph. They sit down 
below in the theatre, their perfectly dressed 
hair gleaming, their backs very straight, their 
heads carried tensely. They are not very 
noticeable. They seem held in reserve. They 


are just as tense and stiff as the men are slack 
and abandoned. Some strange will holds 
the women taut. They seem like weapons, 
dangerous. There is nothing charming nor 
winning about them ; at the best a full, pro- 
lific maternity, at the worst a yellow poisonous 
bitterness of the flesh that is like a narcotic. 
But they are too strong for the men. The 
male spirit, which would subdue the immediate 
flesh to some conscious or social purpose, is 
overthrown. The woman in her maternity 
is the law-giver, the supreme authority. The 
authority of the man, in work, in public affairs, 
is something trivial in comparison. The 
pathetic ignominy of the village male is com- 
plete on Sunday afternoon, on his great day 
of liberation, when he is accompanied home, 
drunk but sinister, by the erect, unswerving, 
slightly cowed woman. His drunken terror- 
ising is only pitiable, she is so obviously the 
more constant power. 

And this is why the men must go away to 
America. It is not the money. It is the 
profound desire to rehabilitate themselves, 
to recover some dignity as men, as producers, 
as workers, as creators from the spirit, not only 


from the flesh. It is a profound desire to 
get away from women altogether, the terrible 
subjugation to sex, the phallic worship. 

The company of actors in the little theatre 
was from a small town away on the plain, 
beyond Brescia. The curtain rose, everybody 
was still, with that profound, na'ive attention 
which children give. And after a few minutes 
I realised that / Spettri was Ibsen's Ghosts, 
The peasants and fishermen of the Garda, 
even the rows of ungovernable children, sat 
absorbed in watching as the Norwegian drama 
unfolded itself. 

The actors are peasants. The leader is 
the son of a peasant proprietor. He is qualified 
as a chemist, but is unsettled, vagrant, prefers 
play-acting. The Signor Pietro di Paoli shrugs 
his shoulders and apologises for their vulgar 
accent. It is all the same to me. I am trying 
to get myself to rights with the play, which I 
have just lately seen in Munich, perfectly 
produced and detestable. 

It was such a change from the hard, ethical, 

slightly mechanised characters in the German 

play, which was as perfect an interpretation 

as I can imagine, to the rather pathetic notion 



of the Italian peasants, that I had to wait to 
adjust myself. 

The mother was a pleasant, comfortable 
woman harassed by something, she did not 
quite know what. The pastor was a ginger- 
haired caricature imitated from the northern 
stage, quite a lay figure. The peasants never 
laughed, they watched solemnly and absorbedly 
like children. The servant was just a slim, 
pert, forward hussy, much too flagrant. And 
then the son, the actor-manager : he was a 
dark, ruddy man, broad and thick-set, evidently 
of peasant origin, but with some education 
now ; he was the important figure, the play 
was his. 

And he was strangely disturbing. Dark, 
ruddy, and powerful, he could not be the 
blighted son of " Ghosts," the hectic, unsound, 
northern issue of a diseased father. His 
flashy Italian passion for his half-sister was 
real enough to make one uncomfortable: 
something he wanted and would have in spite 
of his own soul, something which fundament- 
ally he did not want. 

It was this contradiction within the man 
that made the play so interesting. A robust, 


vigorous man of thirty-eight, flaunting and 
florid as a rather successful Italian can be, 
there was yet a secret sickness which oppressed 
him. But it was no taint in the blood, it was 
rather a kind of debility in the soul. That 
which he wanted and would have, the sensual 
excitement, in his soul he did not want it, no, 
not at all. And yet he must act from his 
physical desires, his physical will. 

His true being, his real self, was impotent. 
In his soul he was dependent, forlorn. He 
was childish and dependent on the mother. 
To hear him say, *' Grazia, mamma ! ** would 
have tormented the mother-soul in any woman 
living. Such a child crying in the night 1 
And for what ? 

For he was hot - blooded, healthy, almost 
in his prime, and free as a man can be in 
his circumstances. He had his own way, 
he admitted no thwarting. He governed his 
circumstances pretty much, coming to our 
village with his little company, playing the 
plays he chose himself. And yet, that which 
he would have he did not vitally want, it was 
only a sort of inflamed obstinacy that made 
him so insistent, in the masculine way. He was 


not going to be governed by women, he was 
not going to be dictated to in the least by any 
one. And this because he was beaten by his 
own flesh. 

His real man's soul, the soul that goes 
forth and builds up a new world out of 
the void, was ineffectual. It could only revert 
to the senses. His divinity was the phallic 
divinity. The other male divinity, which is 
the spirit that fulfils in the world the new 
germ of an idea, this was denied and obscured 
in him, unused. And it was this spirit 
which cried out helplessly in him through 
the insistent, inflammable flesh. Even this 
play-acting was a form of physical gratification 
for him, it had in it neither real mind nor 

It was so different from Ibsen, and so much 
more moving. Ibsen is exciting, nervously 
sensational. But this was really moving, a 
real crying in the night. One loved the Italian 
nation, and wanted to help it with all one's 
soul. But when one sees the perfect Ibsen, 
how one hates the Norwegian and Swedish 
nations ! They are detestable. 

They seem to be fingering with the mind the 
1 08 


secret places and sources of the blood, imperti- 
nent, irreverent, nasty. There is a certain 
intolerable nastiness about the real Ibsen: the 
same thing is in Strindberg and in most of 
the Norwegian and Swedish writings. It is 
with them a sort of phallic worship also, but 
now the worship is mental and perverted : the 
phallus is the real fetish, but it is the source 
of uncleanliness and corruption and death, it 
is the Moloch, worshipped in obscenity. 

Which is unbearable. The phallus is a 
symbol of creative divinity. But it represents 
only part of creative divinity. The Italian 
has made it represent the whole. Which is 
now his misery, for he has to destroy his 
symbol in himself. 

Which is why the Italian men have the 
enthusiasm for war, unashamed. Partly it is 
the true phallic worship, for the phallic prin- 
ciple is to absorb and dominate all life. But 
also it is a desire to expose themselves to death, 
to know death, that death may destroy in them 
this too strong dominion of the blood, may 
once more liberate the spirit of outgoing, of 
uniting, of making order out of chaos, in the 
outer world, as the flesh makes a new order 


from chaos in begetting a new life, set them 
free to know and serve a greater idea. 

The peasants below sat and listened in- 
tently, like children who hear and do not 
understand, yet who are spellbound. The 
children themselves sit spellbound on the 
benches till the play is over. They do not 
fidget or lose interest. They watch with wide, 
absorbed eyes at the mystery, held in thrall 
by the sound of emotion. 

But the villagers do not really care for 
Ibsen. They let it go. On the feast of 
Epiphany, as a special treat, was given a poetic 
drama by D'Annunzio, ha Fiaccola sotto il 
Moggio — The Light under the Bushel. 

It is a foolish romantic play of no real 
significance. There are several murders and 
a good deal of artificial horror. But it is all 
a very nice and romantic piece of make-believe, 
like a charade. 

So the audience loved it. After the per- 
formance of Ghosts I saw the barber, and 
he had the curious grey clayey look of an 
Italian who is cold and depressed. The sterile 
cold inertia, which the so - called passionate 
nations know so well, had settled on him, and 


he went obliterating himself in the street, as 
if he were cold, dead. 

But after the D*Annunzio play he was like 
a man who has drunk sweet wine and is warm. 

" Ah, bellissimo, bellissimo 1 " he said, in 
tones of intoxicated reverence, when he saw me. 

" Better than / Spettri} " I said. 

He half-raised his hands, as if to imply 
the fatuity of the question. 

"Ah, but — " he said, "it was D'An- 
nunzio. The other . . ." 

" That was Ibsen — a great Norwegian,'* I 
said, ** famous all over the world." 

" But, you know — D'Annunzio is a poet 
— oh, beautiful, beautiful! " There was no 
going beyond this " bello — bellissimo." 

It was the language which did it. It was 
the Italian passion for rhetoric, for the speech 
which appeals to the senses and makes no 
demand on the mind. When an Englishman 
listens to a speech he wants at least to imagine 
that he understands thoroughly and imperson- 
ally what is meant. But an Italian only cares 
about the emotion. It is the movement, the 
physical effect of the language upon the blood 
which gives him supreme satisfaction. His 


mind is scarcely engaged at all. He is like a 
child, hearing and feeling without understand- 
ing. It is the sensuous gratification he asks 
for. Which is why D*Annunzio is a god in 
Italy. He can control the current of the blood 
with his words, and although much of what he 
says is bosh, yet the hearer is satisfied, fulfilled. 

Carnival ends on the 5th of February, so 
each Thursday there is a Serata d' Onore of one 
of the actors. The first, and the only one 
for which prices were raised — to a fourpence 
entrance fee instead of threepence — was for 
the leading lady. The play was The Wife of 
the Doctor^ a modern piece, sufficiently un- 
interesting ; the farce that followed made me 

Since it was her Evening of Honour, 
Adelaida was the person to see. She is very 
popular, though she is no longer young. In 
fact, she is the mother of the young pert 
person of Ghosts, 

Nevertheless, Adelaida, stout and blonde 
and soft and pathetic, is the real heroine of 
the theatre, the prima. She is very good at 
sobbing ; and afterwards the men exclaim 
involuntarily, out of their strong emotion 


** bella, bella ! " The women say nothing. 
They sit stiffly and dangerously as ever. But, 
no doubt, they quite agree this is the true 
picture of ill-used, tear-stained woman, the 
bearer of many wrongs. Therefore they take 
unto themselves the homage of the men's 
"bella, bella!*' that follows the sobs: it is 
due recognition of their hard wrongs : " the 
woman pays." Nevertheless, they despise in 
their souls the plump, soft Adelaida. 

Dear Adelaida, she is irreproachable. In 
every age, in every clime, she is dear, at any 
rate to the masculine soul, this soft, tear- 
blenched, blonde, ill-used thing. She must 
be ill-used and unfortunate. Dear Gretchen, 
dear Desdemona, dear Iphigenia, dear Dame 
aux Camelias, dear Lucy of Lammermoor, 
dear Mary Magdalene, dear, pathetic, un- 
fortunate soul, in all ages and lands, how we 
love you. In the theatre she blossoms forth, 
she is the lily of the stage. Young and in- 
experienced as I am, I have broken my heart 
over her several times. I could write a sonnet- 
sequence to her, yes, the fair, pale, tear-stained 
thing, white-robed, with her hair down her 
back ; I could call her by a hundred names, 
113 I 


in a hundred languages, Melisande, Elizabeth, 
Juliet, Butterfly, Ph^dre, Minnehaha, etc. 
Each new time I hear her voice, with its faint 
clang of tears, my heart grows big and hot, 
and my bones melt. I detest her, but it is 
no good. My heart begins to swell like a bud 
under the plangent rain. 

The last time I saw her was here, on the 
Garda, at Salo. She was the chalked, thin- 
armed daughter of Rigoletto. I detested 
her, her voice had a chalky squeak in it. And 
yet, by the end, my heart was over-ripe in my 
breast, ready to burst with loving affection. 
I was ready to walk on to the stage, to wipe 
out the odious, miscreant lover, and to offer 
her all myself, saying, " I can see it is real 
love you want, and you shall have it : / will 
give it to you." 

Of course I know the secret of the Gretchen 
magic ; it is all in the " Save me, Mr. Her- 
cules! " phrase. Her shyness, her timidity, 
her trustfulness, her tears foster my own 
strength and grandeur. I am the positive 
half of the universe. But so I am, if it comes 
to that, just as positive as the other half. 

Adelaida is plump, and her voice has just 


that moist, plangent strength which gives one 
a real voluptuous thrill. The moment she 
comes on the stage and looks round — a bit 
scared — she is she^ Electra, Isolde, Sieglinde, 
Marguerite. She wears a dress of black 
voile, like the lady who weeps at the trial in 
the police-court. This is her modern uniform. 
Her antique garment is of trailing white, with 
a blonde pigtail and a flower. Realistically, 
it is black voile and a handkerchief. 

Adelaida always has a handkerchief. And 
still I cannot resist it. I say, " There's the 
hanky! " Nevertheless, in two minutes it 
has worked its way with me. She squeezes 
it in her poor, plump hand as the tears begin 
to rise ; Fate, or man, is inexorable, so cruel. 
There is a sob, a cry ; she presses the fist and 
the hanky to her eyes, one eye, then the other. 
She weeps real tears, tears shaken from the 
depths of her soft, vulnerable, victimised 
female self. I cannot stand it. There I sit 
in the padrone's little red box and stifle my 
emotion, whilst I repeat in my heart : " What 
a shame, child, what a shame! " She is twice 
my age, but what is age in such a circumstance } 
" Your poor Httle hanky, it's sopping. There 


then, don't cry. It'll be all right. Fll see 
you're all right. All men are not beasts, you 
know." So I cover her protectively in my 
arms, and soon I shall be kissing her, for 
comfort, in the heat and prowess of my com- 
passion, kissing her soft, plump cheek and 
neck closely, bringing my comfort nearer and 

It is a pleasant and exciting role for me to 
play. Robert Burns did the part to perfection : 

O wert thou in the cauld blast 
On yonder lea, on yonder lea. 

How many times does one recite that to all 
the Ophelias and Gretchens in the world: 

Thy bield should be my bosom. 

How one admires one's bosom in that capacity! 
Looking down at one's shirt-front, one is filled 
with strength and pride. 

Why are the women so bad at playing this 
part in real life, this Ophelia-Gretchen role } 
Why are they so unwilling to go mad and die 
for our sakes } They do it regularly on the 

But perhaps, after all, we write the plays. 
What a villain I am, what a black-browed, 


passionate, ruthless, masculine villain I am 
to the leading lady on the stage ; and, on the 
other hand, dear heart, what a hero, what a 
fount of chivalrous generosity and faith! I 
am anything but a dull and law-abiding citizen. 
I am a Galahad, full of purity and spirituality, 
I am the Lancelot of valour and lust ; I fold 
my hands, or I cock my hat on one side, as the 
case may be ; I am myself. Only, I am not a 
respectable citizen, not that, in this hour of 
my glory and my escape. 

Dear Heaven, how Adelaida wept, her voice 
plashing like violin music, at my ruthless, 
masculine cruelty. Dear heart, how she sighed 
to rest on my sheltering bosom! And how I 
enjoyed my dual nature! How I admired 

Adelaida chose La Moglie del Bottore for 
her Evening of Honour. During the following 
week came a little storm of coloured bills : 
" Great Evening of Honour of Enrico Per- 

This is the leader, the actor-manager. 

What should he choose for his great occasion, 

this broad, thick-set, ruddy descendant of the 

peasant proprietors of the plain ? No one 



knew. The title of the play was not 

So we were staying at home, it was cold and 
wet. But the maestra came inflammably on 
that Thursday evening, and were we not 
going to the theatre, to see Amleto ? 

Poor maestra, she is yellow and bitter- 
skinned, near fifty, but her dark eyes are still 
corrosively inflammable. She was engaged 
to a lieutenant in the cavalry, who got drowned 
when she was twenty-one. Since then she 
has hung on the tree unripe, growing yellow 
and bitter-skinned, never developing. 

" Amleto ! " I say. " Non lo conosco'' 

A certain fear comes into her eyes. She 
is schoolmistress, and has a mortal dread of 
being wrong. 

" Si,'* she cries, wavering, appealing, " una 
dramma inglese." 

" English! " I repeated. 

** Yes, an English drama." 

" How do you write it ? " 

Anxiously, she gets a pencil from her 
reticule, and, with black-gloved scrupulous- 
ness, writes Amleto, 

^"•Hamlet I " I exclaim wonderingly. 


** Ecco, Amleto\ " cries the maestra, her 
eyes aflame with thankful justification. 

Then I knew that Signor Enrico Persevalli 
was looking to me for an audience. His 
Evening of Honour would be a bitter occasion 
to him if the English were not there to see his 

I hurried to get ready, I ran through the 
rain. I knew he would take it badly that 
it rained on his Evening of Honour. He 
counted himself a man who had fate against 

** Sono un disgraziato, io.** 

I was late. The First Act was nearly over. 
The play was not yet alive, neither in the 
bosoms of the actors nor in the audience. I 
closed the door of the box softly, and came 
forward. The rolling Italian eyes of Hamlet 
glanced up at me. There came a new impulse 
over the Court of Denmark. 

Enrico looked a sad fool in his melancholy 
black. The doublet sat close, making him 
stout and vulgar, the knee-breeches seemed to 
exaggerate the commonness of his thick, 
rather short, strutting legs. And he carried 
a long black rag, as a cloak, for histrionic 


purposes. And he had on his face a portentous 
grimace of melancholy and philosophic im- 
portance. His was the caricature of Hamlet's 
melancholy self-absorption. 

I stooped to arrange my footstool and com- 
pose my countenance. I was trying not to 
grin. For the first time, attired in philosophic 
melancholy of black silk, Enrico looked a 
boor and a fool. His close-cropped, rather 
animal head was common above the effeminate 
doublet, his sturdy, ordinary figure looked 
absurd in a melancholic droop. 

All the actors alike were out of their element. 
Their Majesties of Denmark were touching. 
The Queen, burly little peasant woman, was 
ill at ease in her pink satin. Enrico had had 
no mercy. He knew she loved to be the scold- 
ing servant or housekeeper, with her head 
tied up in a handkerchief, shrill and vulgar. 
Yet here she was pranked out in an expanse of 
satin, la Regina. Regina, indeed! 

She obediently did her best to be important. 
Indeed, she rather fancied herself; she looked 
sideways at the audience, self-consciously, 
quite ready to be accepted as an imposing and 
noble person, if they would esteem her such. 



Her voice sounded hoarse and common, but 
whether it was the pink satin in contrast, or a 
cold, I do not know. She was almost child- 
ishly afraid to move. Before she began a 
speech she looked down and kicked her skirt 
viciously, so that she was sure it was under 
control. Then she let go. She was a burly, 
downright little body of sixty, one rather 
expected her to box Hamlet on the ears. 

Only she liked being a queen when she sat 
on the throne. There she perched with great 
satisfaction, her train splendidly displayed 
down the steps. She was as proud as a child, 
and she looked like Queen Victoria of the 
Jubilee period. 

The King, her noble consort, also had new 
honours thrust upon him, as well as new 
garments. His body was real enough, but it 
had nothing at all to do with his clothes. They 
established a separate identity by themselves. 
But wherever he went, they went with him, 
to the confusion of everybody. 

He was a thin, rather frail-looking peasant, 
pathetic, and very gentle. There was some- 
thing pure and fine about him, he was so 
exceedingly gentle and by natural breeding 



courteous. But he did not feel kingly, he acted 
the part with beautiful, simple resignation. 

Enrico Persevalli had overshot himself in 
every direction, but worst of all in his own. 
He had become a hulking fellow, crawling 
about with his head ducked between his 
shoulders, pecking and poking, creeping about 
after other people, sniffing at them^ setting 
traps for them, absorbed by his own self- 
important self-consciousness. His legs, in 
their black knee-breeches, had a crawling, 
slinking look ; he always carried the black 
rag of a cloak, something for him to twist 
about as he twisted in his own soul, over- 
whelmed by a sort of inverted perversity. 

I had always felt an aversion from Hamlet : 
a creeping, unclean thing he seems, on the 
stage, whether he is Forbes Robertson or 
anybody else. His nasty poking and sniffing 
at his mother, his setting traps for the King, 
his conceited perversion with Ophelia make 
him always intolerable. The character is 
repulsive in its conception, based on self- 
dislike and a spirit of disintegration. 

There is, I think, this strain of cold dislike, 
or self-dislike, through much of the Renais- 



sance art, and through all the later Shakespeare. 
In Shakespeare it is a kind of corruption in the 
flesh and a conscious revolt from this. A 
sense of corruption in the flesh makes Hamlet 
frenzied, for he will never admit that it is his 
own flesh. Leonardo da Vinci is the same, 
but Leonardo loves the corruption maliciously. 
Michael Angelo rejects any feeling of corrup- 
tion, he stands by the flesh, the flesh only. 
It is the corresponding reaction, but in the 
opposite direction. But that is all four hundred 
years ago. Enrico Persevalli has just reached 
the position. He is Hamlet, and evidently he 
has great satisfaction in the part. He is the 
modern Italian, suspicious, isolated, self-nause- 
ated, labouring in a sense of physical corrup- 
tion. But he will not admit it is in himself. 
He creeps about in self-conceit, transforming 
his own self-loathing. With what satisfaction 
did he reveal corruption, — corruption in his 
neighbours he gloated in, — letting his mother 
know he had discovered her incest, her unclean- 
ness, gloated in torturing the incestuous King. 
Of all the unclean ones, Hamlet was the un- 
cleanest. But he accused only the others. 
Except in the " great " speeches, and there 


Enrico was betrayed, Hamlet suffered the 
extremity of physical self-loathing, loathing of 
his own flesh. The play is the statement of 
the most significant philosophic position of 
the Renaissance. Hamlet is far more even 
than Orestes, his prototype, a mental creature, 
anti-physical, anti-sensual. The whole drama 
is the tragedy of the convulsed reaction of the 
mind from the flesh, of the spirit from the self, 
the reaction from the great aristocratic to the 
great democratic principle. 

An ordinary instinctive man, in Hamlet*s 
position, would either have set about murdering 
his uncle, by reflex action, or else would have 
gone right away. There would have been no 
need for Hamlet to murder his mother. It 
would have been sufficient blood-vengeance if 
he had killed his uncle. But that is the state- 
ment according to the aristocratic principle. 

Orestes was in the same position, but the 
same position two thousand years earlier, with 
two thousand years of experience wanting. So 
that the question was not so intricate in him as 
in Hamlet, he was not nearly so conscious. The 
whole Greek life was based on the idea of the 
supremacy of the self, and the self was always 


male. Orestes was his father's child, he would 
be the same whatever mother he had. The 
mother was but the vehicle, the soil in which the 
paternal seed was planted. When Clytemnestra 
murdered Agamemnon, it was as if a common 
individual murdered God, to the Greek. 

But Agamemnon, King and Lord, was not 
infallible. He was fallible. He had sacrificed 
Iphigenia for the sake of glory in war, for the 
fulfilment of the superb idea of self, but on 
the other hand he had made cruel dissension 
for the sake of the concubines captured in war. 
The paternal flesh was fallible, ungodlike. It 
lusted after meaner pursuits than glory, war, 
and slaying, it was not faithful to the highest 
idea of the self. Orestes was driven mad by 
the furies of his mother, because of the justice 
that they represented. Nevertheless he was in 
the end exculpated. The third play of the 
trilogy is almost foolish, with its prating gods. 
But it means that, according to the Greek con- 
viction, Orestes was right and Clytemnestra 
entirely wrong. But for all that, the infallible 
King, the infallible male Self, is dead in Orestes, 
killed by the furies of Clytemnestra. He gains 
his peace of mind after the revulsion from his 


own physical fallibility, but he will never be 
an unquestioned lord, as Agamemnon was. 
Orestes is left at peace, neutralised. He is 
the beginning of non-aristocratic Christianity. 

Hamlet's father, the King, is, like Agamem- 
non, a warrior-king. But, unlike Agamemnon, 
he is blameless with regard to Gertrude. Yet 
Gertrude, like Clytemnestra, is the potential 
murderer of her husband, as Lady Macbeth 
is murderess, as the daughters of Lear. The 
women murder the supreme male, the ideal 
Self, the King and Father. 

This is the tragic position Shakespeare must 
dwell upon. The woman rejects, repudiates 
the ideal Self which the male represents to 
her. The supreme representative, King and 
Father, is murdered by the Wife and the 

What is the reason ? Hamlet goes mad 
in a revulsion of rage and nausea. Yet the 
women-murderers only represent some ulti- 
mate judgment in his own soul. At the bottom 
of his own soul Hamlet has decided that the 
Self in its supremacy. Father and King, must 
die. It is a suicidal decision for his involun- 
tary soul to have arrived at. Yet it is inevitable. 


The great religious, philosophic tide, which 
had been swelling all through the Middle 
Ages, had brought him there. 

The question, to be or not to be, which 
Hamlet puts himself, does not mean, to live 
or not to live. It is not the simple human 
being who puts himself the question, it is the 
supreme I, King and Father. To be or not 
to be King, Father, in the Self supreme ? 
And the decision is, not to be. 

It is the inevitable philosophic conclusion 
of all the Renaissance. The deepest impulse 
in man, the religious impulse, is the desire to 
be immortal, or infinite, consummated. And 
this impulse is satisfied in fulfilment of an 
idea, a steady progression. In this progression 
man is satisfied, he seems to have reached 
his goal, this infinity, this immortality, this 
eternal being, with every step nearer which he 

And so, according to his idea of fulfilment, 
man establishes the whole order of life. If 
my fulfilment is the fulfilment and establish- 
ment of the unknown divine Self which I am, 
then I shall proceed in the realising of the 
greatest idea of the self, the highest conception 


of the I, my order of life will be kingly, 
imperial, aristocratic. The body politic also will 
culminate in this divinity of the flesh, this body 
imbued with glory, invested with divine power 
and might, the King, the Emperor. In the 
body politic also I shall desire a king, an em- 
peror, a tyrant, glorious, mighty, in whom I 
see myself consummated and fulfilled. This 
is inevitable! 

But during the Middle Ages, struggling 
within this pagan, original transport, the 
transport of the Ego, was a small dissatis- 
faction, a small contrary desire. Amid the 
pomp of kings and popes was the Child 
Jesus and the Madonna. Jesus the King 
gradually dwindled down. There was Jesus 
rhe Child, helpless, at the mercy of all the 
world. And there was Jesus crucified. 

The old transport, the old fulfilment of the 
Ego, the Davidian ecstasy, the assuming of 
all power and glory unto the self, the becoming 
infinite through the absorption of all into the 
Ego, this gradually became unsatisfactory. 
This was not the infinite, this was not im- 
mortality. This was eternal death, this was 



The monk rose up with his opposite ecstasy, 
the Christian ecstasy. There was a death to 
die : the flesh, the self, must die, so that the 
spirit should rise again immortal, eternal, 
infinite. I am dead unto myself, but I live 
in the Infinite. The finite Me is no more, only 
the Infinite, the Eternal, is. 

At the Renaissance this great half-truth 
overcame the other great half-truth. The 
Christian Infinite, reached by a process of 
abnegation, a process of being absorbed, dis- 
solved, diffused into the great Not - Self, 
supplanted the old pagan Infinite, wherein 
the self like a root threw out branches 
and radicles which embraced the whole uni- 
verse, became the Whole. 

There is only one Infinite, the world now 
cried, there is the great Christian Infinite of 
renunciation and consummation in the not-self. 
The other, that old pride, is damnation. The 
sin of sins is Pride, it is the way to total damna- 
tion. Whereas the pagans based their life 
on pride. 

And according to this new Infinite, reached 
through renunciation and dissolving into the 
Others, the Neighbour, man must build up his 
129 K 


actual form of life. With Savonarola and 
Martin Luther the living Church actually trans- 
formed itself, for the Roman Church was still 
pagan. Henry VIII. simply said, "There is 
no Church, there is only the State.*' But with 
Shakspeare the transformation had reached the 
State also. The King, the Father, the repre- 
sentative of the Consummate Self, the maximum 
of all life, the symbol of the consummate being, 
the becoming Supreme, Godlike, Infinite, he 
must perish and pass away. This Infinite was 
not infinite, this consummation was not consum- 
mate, all this was fallible, false. It was rotten, 
corrupt. It must go. But Shakspeare was 
also the thing itself. Hence his horror, his 
frenzy, his self-loathing. 

The King, the Emperor is killed in the soul 
of man, the old order of life is over, the old tree 
is dead at the root. So said Shakspeare. It 
was finally enacted in Cromwell. Charles I. 
took up the old position of kingship by divine 
right. Like Hamlet's father, he was blameless 
otherwise. But as representative of the old 
form of life, which mankind now hated with 
frenzy, he must be cut down, removed. It 
was a symbolic act. 



The world, our world of Europe, had now 
really turned, swung round to a new goal, a 
new idea, the Infinite reached through the 
omission of Self. God is all that which is Not- 
Me. I am consummate when my Self, the re- 
sistant solid, is reduced and diffused into all that 
which is Not-Me: my neighbour, my enemy, 
the great Otherness. Then I am perfect. 

And from this belief the world began gradu- 
ally to form a new State, a new body politic, 
in which the Self should be removed. There 
should be no king, no lords, no aristocrats. 
The world continued in its religious belief, 
beyond the French Revolution, beyond the 
great movement of Shelley and Godwin. 
There should be no Self. That which was 
supreme was that which was Not-Me, the other. 
The governing factor in the State was the idea 
of the good of others ; that is, the Common 
Good. And the vital governing idea in the 
State has been this idea since Cromwell. 

Before Cromwell the idea was '* For the 
King," because every man saw himself con- 
summated in the King. After Cromwell the 
idea was " For the good of my neighbour," 
or " For the good of the people," or " For the 


good of the whole." This has been our ruling 
idea, by which we have more or less lived. 

Now this has failed. Now we say that 
the Christian Infinite is not infinite. We are 
tempted, like Nietzsche, to return back to the 
old pagan Infinite, to say that is supreme. Or 
we are inclined, like the English and the 
Pragmatist, to say, " There is no Infinite, 
there is no Absolute. The only Absolute is 
expediency, the only reality is sensation and 
momentariness." But we may say this, even 
act on it, a la Sanine, But we never believe it. 

What is really Absolute is the mystic 
Reason which connects both Infinites, the 
Holy Ghost that relates both natures of God. 
If we now wish to make a living State, we must 
build it up to the idea of the Holy Spirit, the 
supreme Relationship. We must say, the 
pagan Infinite is infinite, the Christian Infinite 
is infinite : these are our two Consummations, 
in both of these we are consummated. But 
that which relates them alone is absolute. 

This Absolute of the Floly Ghost we may 

call Truth or Justice or Right. These are 

partial names, indefinite and unsatisfactory 

unless there be kept the knowledge of the two 



Infinites, pagan and Christian, which they go 
between. When both are there, they are Hke 
a superb bridge, on which one can stand and 
know the whole world, my world, the two 
halves of the universe. 

*' Essere, o non essere, ^ qui il punto." 
To be or not to be was the question for 
Hamlet to settle. It is no longer our question, 
at least, not in the same sense. When it is a 
question of death, the fashionable young suicide 
declares that his self-destruction is the final proof 
of his own incontrovertible being. And as for 
not- being in our public Hfe, we have achieved 
it as much as ever we want to, as much as is 
necessary. W^hilst in private life there is a 
swing back to paltry selfishness as a creed. And 
in the war there is the position of neutralisation 
and nothingness. It is a question of knowing 
how to he^ and how not to he^ for we must fulfil 

Enrico Persevalli was detestable with his 
** Essere, o non essere." He whispered it 
in a hoarse whisper as if it were some melo- 
dramatic murder he was about to commit. 
As a matter of fact, he knows quite well, and 
has known all his life, that his pagan Infinite, 


his transport of the flesh and the supremacy 
of the male in fatherhood, is all unsatisfactory. 
All his life he has really cringed before the 
northern Infinite of the Not-Self, although he 
has continued in the Italian habit of Self. 
But it is mere habit, sham. 

How can he know anything about being 
and not-being when he is only a maudlin com- 
promise between them, and all he wants is to 
be a maudlin compromise ? He is neither one 
nor the other. He has neither being nor not- 
being. He is as equivocal as the monks. He 
was detestable, mouthing Hamlet*s sincere 
words. He has still to let go, to know what 
not-being is, before he can Ipe. Till he has gone 
through the Christian negation of himself, 
and has known the Christian consummation, 
he is a mere amorphous heap. 

For the soliloquies of Hamlet are as deep 
as the soul of man can go, in one direction, and 
as sincere as the Holy Spirit itself in their 
essence. But thank heaven, the bog into which 
Hamlet struggled is almost surpassed. 

It is a strange thing, if a man covers his 
face, and speaks with his eyes blinded, how 
significant and poignant he becomes. The 


ghost of this Hamlet was very simple. He was 
wrapped down to the knees in a great white 
cloth, and over his face was an open-work 
woollen shawl. But the naive blind helpless- 
ness and verity of his voice was strangely 
convincing. He seemed the most real thing 
in the play. From the knees downward he was 
Laertes, because he had on Laertes' white 
trousers and patent leather slippers. Yet he 
was strangely real, a voice out of the dark. 

The Ghost is really one of the play's failures, 
it is so trivial and unspiritual and vulgar. And 
it was spoilt for me from the first. When I 
was a child I went to the twopenny travelling 
theatre to see Hamlet, The Ghost had on a 
helmet and a breastplate. I sat in pale 

" 'Amblet, 'Amblet, I am thy father's 

Then came a voice from the dark, silent 
audience, like a cynical knife to my fond soul : 

" Why tha arena, I can tell thy voice." 

The peasants loved Ophelia : she was in 
white with her hair down her back. Poor 
thing, she was pathetic, demented. And no 
wonder, after Hamlet's " O, that this too, too 


solid flesh would melt!" What then of her 
young breasts and her womb ? Hamlet with 
her was a very disagreeable sight. The 
peasants loved her. There was a hoarse roar, 
half of indignation, half of roused passion, at 
the end of her scene. 

The graveyard scene, too, was a great 
success, but I could not bear Hamlet. And 
the grave-digger in Italian was a mere buffoon. 
The whole scene was farcical to me because 

of the Italian, ** Questo cranio, Signore " 

And Enrico, dainty fellow, took the skull in 
a corner of his black cloak. As an Italian, he 
would not willingly touch it. It was unclean. 
But he looked a fool, hulking himself in his 
lugubriousness. He was as self-important as 

The close fell flat. The peasants had 
applauded the whole graveyard scene wildly. 
But at the end of all they got up and crowded 
to the doors, as if to hurry away : this in spite 
of Enrico's final feat : he fell backwards^ 
smack down three steps of the throne plat- 
form, on to the stage. But planks and braced 
muscle will bounce, and Signor Amleto bounced 
quite high again. 



It was the end of Amleto^ and I was glad. 
But I loved the theatre, I loved to look down 
on the peasants, who were so absorbed. At 
the end of the scenes the men pushed back 
their black hats, and rubbed their hair across 
their brows with a pleased, excited movement. 
And the women stirred in their seats. 

Just one man was with his wife and child, 
and he was of the same race as my old woman 
at San Tommaso. He was fair, thin, and 
clear, abstract, of the mountains. He seemed 
to have gathered his wife and child together 
into another, finer atmosphere, like the air 
of the mountains, and to guard them in it. 
This is the real Joseph, father of the child. 
He has a fierce, abstract look, wild and untamed 
as a hawk, but like a hawk at its own nest, 
fierce with love. He goes out and buys 
a tiny bottle of lemonade for a penny, and 
the mother and child sip it in tiny sips, 
whilst he bends over, like a hawk arching its 

It is the fierce spirit of the Ego come out of 

the primal infinite, but detached, isolated, an 

aristocrat. He is not an Italian, dark-blooded. 

He is fair, keen as steel, with the blood of the 



mountaineer in him. He is like my old 
spinning woman. It is curious how, with his 
wife and child, he makes a little separate world 
down there in the theatre, like a hawk's nest, 
high and arid under the gleaming sky. 

The Bersaglieri sit close together in groups, 
so that there is a strange, corporal connection 
between them. They have close-cropped, dark, 
slightly bestial heads, and thick shoulders, and 
thick brown hands on each other's shoulders. 
When an act is over they pick up their cherished 
hats and fling on their cloaks and go into the 
hall. They are rather rich, the Bersaglieri. 

They are like young, half-wild oxen, such 
strong, sturdy, dark lads, thickly built and 
with strange hard heads, like young male 
caryatides. They keep close together, as if 
there were some physical instinct connecting 
them. And they are quite womanless. There 
is a curious inter-absorption among themselves, 
a sort of physical trance that holds them all, 
and puts their minds to sleep. There is a 
strange, hypnotic unanimity among them as 
they put on their plumed hats and go out 
together, always very close, as if their bodies 
must touch. Then they feel safe and content 



in this heavy, physical trance. They are in 
love with one another, the young men love 
the young men. They shrink from the world 
beyond, from the outsiders, from all who are not 
Bersaglieri of their barracks. 

One man is a sort of leader. He is very 
straight and solid, solid like a wall, with a 
dark, unblemished will. His cock - feathers 
slither in a profuse, heavy stream from his 
black oil-cloth hat, almost to his shoulder. He 
swings round. His feathers slip in a cascade. 
Then he goes out to the hall, his feather 
tossing and falling richly. He must be well 
off. The Bersaglieri buy their own black 
cock*s-plumes, and some pay twenty or thirty 
francs for the bunch, so the maestra said. The 
poor ones have only poor, scraggy plumes. 

There is something very primitive about 
these men. They remind me really of Aga- 
memnon's soldiers clustered on the seashore, 
men, all men, a living, vigorous, physical host 
of men. But there is a pressure on these 
Italian soldiers, as if they were men caryatides, 
with a great weight on their heads, making 
their brain hard, asleep, stunned. They all 
look as if their real brain were stunned, as if 


there were another centre of physical con- 
sciousness from which they lived. 

Separate from them all is Pietro, the young 
man who lounges on the wharf to carry things 
from the steamer. He starts up from sleep 
like a wild-cat as somebody claps him on the 
shoulder. It is the start of a man who 
has many enemies. He is almost an outlaw. 
Will he ever find himself in prison ? He 
is the gamin of the village, well detested. 

He is twenty-four years old, thin, dark, 
handsome, with a cat-like lightness and grace, 
and a certain repulsive, gamin evil in his face. 
Where everybody is so clean and tidy, he is 
almost ragged. His week's beard shows very 
black in his slightly hollow cheeks. He 
hates the man who has waked him by clapping 
him on the shoulder. 

Pietro is already married, yet he behaves 
as if he were not. He has been carrying on 
with a loose woman, the wife of the citron- 
coloured barber, the Siciliano. Then he seats 
himself on the women's side of the theatre, 
behind a young person from Bogliaco, who 
also has no reputation, and makes her talk 
to him. He leans forward, resting his arms 



on the seat before him, stretching his slender, 
cat-like, flexible loins. The padrona of the 
hotel hates him — " ein frecher Kerl," she says 
with contempt, and she looks away. Her 
eyes hate to see him. 

In the village there is the clerical party, 
which is the majority ; there is the anti-clerical 
party, and there are the ne'er-do-wells. The 
clerical people are dark and pious and cold ; 
there is a curious stone-cold, ponderous dark- 
ness over them, moral and gloomy. Then 
the anti-clerical party, with the Syndaco at the 
head, is bourgeois and respectable as far as the 
middle-aged people are concerned, banal, re- 
spectable, shut off as by a wall from the clerical 
people. The young anti-clericals are the young 
bloods of the place, the men who gather every 
night in the more expensive and less-respectable 
caf^. These young men are all free-thinkers, 
great dancers, singers, players of the guitar. 
They are immoral and slightly cynical. Their 
leader is the young shopkeeper, who has lived 
in Vienna, who is a bit of a bounder, with a 
veneer of sneering irony on an original good 
nature. He is well-to-do, and gives dances 
to which only the looser women go, with these 


reckless young men. He also gets up 
parties of pleasure, and is chiefly responsible 
for the coming of the players to the theatre 
this carnival. These young men are dis- 
liked, but they belong to the important class, 
they are well-to-do, and they have the life of 
the village in their hands. The clerical 
peasants are priest-ridden and good, because 
they are poor and afraid and superstitious. 
There is, lastly, a sprinkling of loose women, 
one who keeps the inn where the soldiers 
drink. These women are a definite set. They 
know what they are, they pretend nothing else. 
They are not prostitutes, but just loose women. 
They keep to their own clique, among men and 
women, never wanting to compromise anybody 

And beyond all these there are the Francis- 
can friars in their brown robes, so shy, so silent, 
so obliterated, as they stand back in the shop, 
waiting to buy the bread for the monastery, 
waiting obscure and neutral, till no one shall be 
in the shop wanting to be served. The village 
women speak to them in a curious neutral, 
official, slightly contemptuous voice. They 
answer neutral and humble, though distinctly. 


At the theatre, now the play is over, the 
peasants in their black hats and cloaks crowd 
the hall. Only Pietro, the wharf-lounger, 
has no cloak, and a bit of a cap on the side of 
his head instead of a black felt hat. His 
clothes are thin and loose on his thin, vigorous, 
cat-like body, and he is cold, but he takes no 
notice. His hands are always in his pockets, 
his shoulders slightly raised. 

The few women slip away home. In the 
little theatre-bar the well-to-do young atheists 
are having another drink. Not that they 
spend much. A tumbler of wine or a glass 
of vermouth costs a penny. And the wine is 
horrible new stuff. Yet the little baker, 
Agostino, sits on a bench with his pale baby 
on his knee, putting the wine to its lips. And 
the baby drinks, like a blind fledgling. 

Upstairs, the quality has paid its visits and 
shaken hands ; the Syndaco and the well-to-do 
half-Austrian owners of the woodyard, the 
Bertolini, have ostentatiously shown their 
mutual friendship ; our padrone, the Signor 
Pietro Di Paoli, has visited his relatives the 
Graziani in the box next the stage, and has 
spent two intervals with us in our box ; mean- 


while, his two peasants standing down below, 
pathetic, thin contadini of the old school, like 
worn stones, have looked up at us as if we are 
the angels in heaven, with a reverential, 
devotional eye, they themselves far away below, 
standing in the bay at the back, below all. 

The chemist and the grocer and the school- 
mistress pay calls. They have all sat self- 
consciously posed in the front of their boxes, 
like framed photographs of themselves. The 
second grocer and the baker visit each other. 
The barber looks in on the carpenter, 
then drops downstairs among the crowd. 
Class distinctions are cut very fine. As we 
pass with the padrona of the hotel, who is a 
Bavarian, we stop to speak to our own padroni, 
the Di Paoli. They have a warm handshake 
and effusive polite conversation for us ; for 
Maria Samuelli, a distant bow. We realise 
our mistake. 

The barber — not the Siciliano, but flashy 
little Luigi with the big tie - ring and the 
curls — knows all about the theatre. He says 
that Enrico Persevalli has for his mistress 
Carina, the servant in Ghosts : that the thin, 
gentle, old-looking king in Hamlet is the 


husband of Adelaida, and Carina is their 
daughter : that the old, sharp, fat Httle body 
of a queen is Adelaida's mother: that they all 
like Enrico Persevalli, because he is a very 
clever man: but that the " Comic," II Bri- 
llante, Francesco, is unsatisfied. 

In three performances in Epiphany week, 
the company took two hundred and sixty-five 
francs, which was phenomenal. The manager, 
Enrico Persevalli, and Adelaida pay twenty- 
four francs for every performance, or every 
evening on which a performance is given, as 
rent for the theatre, including light. The 
company is completely satisfied with its recep- 
tion on the Lago di Garda. 

So it is all over. The Bersaglieri go run- 
ning all the way home, because it is already 
past half-past ten. The night is very dark. 
About four miles up the lake the searchlights 
of the Austrian border are swinging, looking 
for smugglers. Otherwise the darkness is 




In the autumn the little rosy cyclamens blossom 
in the shade of this west side of the lake. They 
are very cold and fragrant, and their scent 
seems to belong to Greece, to the Bacchae. 
They are real flowers of the past. They seem 
to be blossoming in the landscape of Phaedra 
and Helen. They bend down, they brood 
like little chill fires. They are little living 
myths that I cannot understand. 

After the cyclamens the Christmas roses 
are in bud. It is at this season that the cacchi 
are ripe on the trees in the garden, whole 
naked trees full of lustrous, orange-yellow, 
paradisal fruit, gleaming against the wintry 
blue sky. The monthly roses still blossom 
frail and pink, there are still crimson and yellow 
roses. But the vines are bare and the lemon- 


houses shut. And then, in mid-winter, the 
lowest buds of the Christmas roses appear 
under the hedges and rocks and by the streams. 
They are very lovely, these first, large, cold, 
pure buds, like violets, like magnolias, but 
cold, lit up with the light from the snow. 

The days go by, through the brief silence of 
winter, when the sunshine is so still and pure, 
like iced wine, and the dead leaves gleam brown, 
and water sounds hoarse in the ravines. It is 
so still and transcendent, the cypress trees poise 
like flames of forgotten darkness, that should 
have been blown out at the end of the summer. 
For as we have candles to light the dark- 
ness of night, so the cypresses are candles 
to keep the darkness aflame in the full sun- 

Meanwhile, the Christmas roses become 
many. They rise from their budded, intact 
humbleness near the ground, they rise up, 
they throw up their crystal, they become hand- 
some, they are heaps of confident, mysterious 
whiteness in the shadow of a rocky stream. 
It is almost uncanny to see them. They are 
the flowers of darkness, white and wonderful 
beyond belief. 



Then their radiance becomes soiled and 
brown, they thaw, break, and scatter and vanish 
away. Already the primroses are coming out, 
and the almond is in bud. The winter is 
passing away. On the mountains the fierce 
snow gleams apricot gold as evening approaches, 
golden, apricot, but so bright that it is almost 
frightening. What can be so fiercely gleam- 
ing when all is shadowy ? It is something 
inhuman and unmitigated between heaven and 

The heavens are strange and proud all the 
winter, their progress goes on without reference 
to the dim earth. The dawns come white 
and translucent, the lake is a moonstone in 
the dark hills, then across the lake there 
stretches a vein of fire, then a whole, orange, 
flashing track over the whiteness. There is 
the exquisite silent passage of the day, and 
then at evening the afterglow, a huge incan- 
descence of rose, hanging above and gleaming, 
as if it were the presence of a host of angels 
in rapture. It gleams like a rapturous chorus, 
then passes away, and the stars appear, large 
and flashing. 

Meanwhile, the primroses are dawning on 


the ground, their Hght is growing stronger, 
spreading over the banks and under the bushes. 
Between the olive roots the violets are out, 
large, white, grave violets, and less serious blue 
ones. And looking down the hill, among the 
grey smoke of olive leaves, pink puffs of smoke 
are rising up. It is the almond and the apricot 
trees, it is the Spring. 

Soon the primroses are strong on the ground. 
There is a bank of small, frail crocuses shooting 
the lavender into this spring. And then the 
tussocks and tussocks of primroses are fully 
out, there is full morning everywhere on the 
banks and roadsides and stream-sides, and 
around the olive roots, a morning of primroses 
underfoot, with an invisible threading of many 
violets, and then the lovely blue clusters of 
hepatica, really like pieces of blue sky showing 
through a clarity of primrose. The few 
birds are piping thinly and shyly, the streams 
sing again, there is a strange flowering shrub 
full of incense, overturned flowers of crimson 
and gold, like Bohemian glass. Between the 
olive roots new grass is coming, day is leaping 
all clear and coloured from the earth, it is full 
Spring, full first rapture. 


Does it pass away, or does it only lose its 
pristine quality ? It deepens and intensifies, 
like experience. The days seem to be darker 
and richer, there is a sense of power in the 
strong air. On the banks by the lake the 
orchids are out, many, many pale bee-orchids 
standing clear from the short grass over the 
lake. And in the hollows are the grape 
hyacinths, purple as noon, with the heavy, 
sensual fragrance of noon. They are many- 
breasted, and full of milk, and ripe, and sun- 
darkened, like many-breasted Diana. 

We could not bear to live down in the 
village any more, now that the days opened 
large and spacious and the evenings drew 
out in sunshine. We could not bear the 
indoors, when above us the mountains shone 
in clear air. It was time to go up, to climb 
with the sun. 

So after Easter we went to San Gaudenzio. 
It was three miles away, up the winding mule- 
track that climbed higher and higher along the 
lake. Leaving the last house of the village, 
the path wound on the steep, cliff-like side of 
the lake, curving into the hollow where the 
landslip had tumbled the rocks in chaos, then 


out again on to the bluff of a headland that 
hung over the lake. 

Thus we came to the tall barred gate of 
San Gaudenzio, on which was the usual little 
fire-insurance tablet, and then the advertise- 
ments for beer, " Birra, Verona," which is 
becoming a more and more popular drink. 

Through the gate, inside the high wall, is 
the little Garden of Eden, a property of three 
or four acres fairly level upon a headland over 
the lake. The high wall girds it on the land 
side, and makes it perfectly secluded. On 
the lake side it is bounded by the sudden drops 
of the land, in sharp banks and terraces, over- 
grown with ilex and with laurel bushes, down 
to the brink of the cliff, so that the thicket 
of the first declivities seems to safeguard the 

The pink farmhouse stands almost in the 
centre of the little territory, among the olive 
trees. It is a solid, six-roomed place, about 
fifty years old, having been rebuilt by Paolo's 
uncle. Here we came to live for a time with 
the Fiori, Maria and Paolo, and their three 
children, Giovanni and Marco and Felicina. 

Paolo had inherited, or partly inherited, 


San Gaudenzio, which had been in his family 
for generations. He was a peasant of fifty- 
three, very grey and wrinkled and worn- 
looking, but at the same time robust, with full 
strong limbs and a powerful chest. His face 
was old, but his body was solid and powerful. 
His eyes were blue like upper ice, beautiful. 
He had been a fair-haired man, now he was 
almost white. 

He was strangely like the pictures of 
peasants in the northern Italian pictures, with 
the same curious nobility, the same aristocratic, 
eternal look of motionlessness, something 
statuesque. His head was hard and fine, the 
bone finely constructed, though the skin of 
his face was loose and furrowed with work. 
His temples had that fine, hard clarity which is 
seen in Mantegna, an almost jewel-like quality. 

We all loved Paolo, he was so finished in 
his being, detached, with an almost classic 
simplicity and gentleness, an eternal kind of 
sureness. There was also something con- 
cluded and unalterable about him, something 

Maria Fiori was different. She was from 
the plain, like Enrico Persevalli and the 


Bersaglieri from the Venetian district. She 
reminded me again of oxen, broad-boned and 
massive in physique, dark-skinned, slow in 
her soul. But, like the oxen of the plain, 
she knew her work, she knew the other people 
engaged in the work. Her intelligence was 
attentive and purposive. She had been a 
housekeeper, a servant, in Venice and Verona, 
before her marriage. She had got the hang 
of this world of commerce and activity, she 
wanted to master it. But she was weighted 
down by her heavy animal blood. 

Paolo and she were the opposite sides of 
the universe, the light and the dark. Yet they 
lived together now without friction, detached, 
each subordinated in their common relation- 
ship. With regard to Maria, Paolo omitted 
himself; Maria omitted herself with regard 
to Paolo. Their souls were silent and de- 
tached, completely apart, and silent, quite 
silent. They shared the physical relationship 
of marriage as if it were something beyond 
them, a third thing. 

They had suffered very much in the earlier 
stages of their connection. Now the storm 
had gone by, leaving them, as it were, spent. 


They were both by nature passionate, vehement. 
But the lines of their passion were opposite. 
Hers was the primitive, crude, violent flux of 
the blood, emotional and undiscriminating, but 
wanting to mix and mingle. His was the 
hard, clear, invulnerable passion of the bones, 
finely tempered and unchangeable. She was 
the flint and he the steel. But in continual 
striking together they only destroyed each 
other. The fire was a third thing, belonging 
to neither of them. 

She was still heavy and full of desire. She 
was much younger than he. 

" How long did you know your Signora 
before you were married ? " she asked me. 

" Six weeks," I said. 

** II Paolo e me, venti giorni, tre settimani," 
she cried vehemently. Three weeks they had 
known each other when they married. She 
still triumphed in the fact. So did Paolo. 
But it was past, strangely and rather terribly 

What did they want when they came 
together, Paolo and she? He was a man over 
thirty, she was a woman of twenty-three. They 
were both violent in desire and of strong will. 


They came together at once, like two wrestlers 
almost matched in strength. Their meetings 
must have been splendid. Giovanni, the eldest 
child, was a tall lad of sixteen, with soft brown 
hair and grey eyes, and a clarity of brow, and 
the same calm simplicity of bearing which 
made Paolo so complete ; but the son had at 
the same time a certain brownness of skin, 
a heaviness of blood, which he had from his 
mother. Paolo was so clear and translucent. 

In Giovanni the fusion of the parents was 
perfect, he was a perfect spark from the flint 
and steel. There was in Paolo a subtle in- 
telligence in feeUng, a delicate appreciation 
of the other person. But the mind was un- 
intelligent, he could not grasp a new order. 
Maria Fiori was much sharper and more 
adaptable to the ways of the world. Paolo 
had an almost glass-like quality, fine and clear 
and perfectly tempered ; but he was also 
finished and brittle. Maria was much coarser, 
more vulgar, but also she was more human, 
more fertile, with crude potentiality. His 
passion was too fixed in its motion, hers too 
loose and overwhelming. 

But Giovanni was beautiful, gentle, and 


courtly like Paolo, but warm, like Maria, 
ready to flush like a girl with anger or con- 
fusion. He stood straight and tall, and seemed 
to look into the far distance with his clear grey 
eyes. Yet also he could look at one and touch 
one with his look, he could meet one. Paolo's 
blue eyes were like the eyes of the old spinning- 
woman, clear and blue and belonging to the 
mountains, their vision seemed to end in 
space, abstract. They reminded me of the 
eyes of the eagle, which looks into the sun, and 
which teaches its young to do the same, 
although they are unwilling. 

Marco, the second son, was thirteen years 
old. He was his mother's favourite. Gio- 
vanni loved his father best. But Marco was 
his mother's son, with the same brown-gold 
and red complexion, like a pomegranate, and 
coarse black hair, and brown eyes like pebble, 
like agate, like an animal's eyes. He had the 
same broad, bovine figure, though he was only 
a boy. But there was some discrepancy in 
him. He was not unified, he had no identity. 

He was strong and full of animal life, but 
always aimless, as though his wits scarcely 
controlled him. But he loved his mother 


with a fundamental, generous, undistinguishing 
love. Only he always forgot what he was 
going to do. He was much more sensitive 
than Maria, more shy and reluctant. But his 
shyness, his sensitiveness only made him more 
aimless and awkward, a tiresome clown, slack 
and uncontrolled, witless. All day long his 
mother shouted and shrilled and scolded at 
him, or hit him angrily. He did not mind, 
he came up like a cork, warm and roguish 
and curiously appealing. She loved him with 
a fierce protective love, grounded on pain. 
There was such a split, a contrariety in his 
soul, one part reacting against the other, which 
landed him always into trouble. 

It was when Marco was a baby that Paolo 
had gone to America. They were poor on 
San Gaudenzio. There were the few olive 
trees, the grapes, and the fruit ; there was the 
one cow. But these scarcely made a living. 
Neither was Maria content with the real 
peasants' lot any more, polenta at mid-day and 
vegetable soup in the evening, and no way 
out, nothing to look forward to, no future, 
only this eternal present. She had been in 
service, and had eaten bread and drunk coffee, 


and known the flux and variable chance of 
life. She had departed from the old static 
conception. She knew what one might be, 
given a certain chance. The fixture was the 
thing she militated against. So Paolo went to 
America, to California, into the gold mines. 

Maria wanted the future, the endless possi- 
bility of life on earth. She wanted her sons 
to be freer, to achieve a new plane of living. 
The peasant's life was a slave's life, she said, 
railing against the poverty and the drudgery. 
And it was quite true, Paolo and Giovanni 
worked twelve and fourteen hours a day at 
heavy laborious work that would have broken 
an Englishman. And there was nothing at 
the end of it. Yet Paolo was even happy so. 
This was the truth to him. 

It was the mother who wanted things 
different. It was she who railed and railed 
against the miserable life of the peasants. 
When we were going to throw to the fowls a 
dry broken penny roll of white bread, Maria 
said, with anger and shame and resentment 
in her voice : " Give it to Marco, he will eat 
it. It isn't too dry for him." 

White bread was a treat for them even 



now, when everybody eats bread. And Maria 
Fiori hated it, that bread should be a treat to 
her children, when it was the meanest food of 
all the rest of the world. She was in opposition 
to this order. She did not want her sons to 
be peasants, fixed and static as posts driven in 
the earth. She wanted them to be in the great 
flux of life, in the midst of all possibilities. So 
she at length sent Paolo to America to the gold- 
mines. Meanwhile, she covered the wall of her 
parlour with picture postcards, to bring the outer 
world of cities and industries into her house. 

Paolo was entirely remote from Maria's 
world. He had not yet even grasped the fact 
of money, not thoroughly. He reckoned in 
land and olive trees. So he had the old fatal- 
istic attitude to his circumstances, even to his 
food. The earth was the Lord's and the fulness 
thereof: also the leanness thereof. Paolo 
could only do his part and leave the rest. If he 
ate in plenty, having oil and wine and sausage 
in the house, and plenty of maize - meal, he 
was glad with the Lord. If he ate meagrely, 
of poor polenta, that was fate, it was the skies 
that ruled these things, and no man ruled the 
skies. He took his fate as it fell from the skies. 


Maria was exorbitant about money. She 
would charge us all she could for what we had 
and for what was done for us. 

Yet she was not mean in her soul. In her 
soul she was in a state of anger because of 
her own closeness. It was a violation to her 
strong animal nature. Yet her mind had 
wakened to the value of money. She knew 
she could alter her position, the position of her 
children, by virtue of money. She knew it was 
only money that made the difference between 
master and servant. And this was all the differ- 
ence she would acknowledge. So she ruled her 
life according to money. Her supreme passion 
was to be mistress rather than servant, her 
supreme aspiration for her children was that in 
the end they might be masters and not servants. 

Paolo was untouched by all this. For him 
there was some divinity about a master which 
even America had not destroyed. If we came 
in for supper whilst the family was still at 
table he would have the children at once take 
their plates to the wall, he would have Maria 
at once set the table for us, though their own 
meal were never finished. And this was not 
servility, it was the dignity of a religious con- 


ception. Paolo regarded us as belonging to 
the Signoria, those who are elect, near to God. 
And this was part of his religious service. His 
life was a ritual. It was very beautiful, but 
it made me unhappy, the purity of his spirit 
was so sacred and the actual facts seemed such 
a sacrilege to it. Maria was nearer to the 
actual truth when she said that money was the 
only distinction. But Paolo had hold of an 
eternal truth, where hers was temporal. Only 
Paolo misapplied this eternal truth. He should 
not have given Giovanni the inferior status 
and a fat, mean Italian tradesman the superior. 
That was false, a real falsity. Maria knew it 
and hated it. But Paolo could not distinguish 
between the accident of riches and the aristo- 
cracy of the spirit. So Maria rejected him 
altogether, and went to the other extreme. 
We were all human beings like herself ; naked, 
there was no distinction between us, no higher 
nor lower. But we were possessed of more 
money than she. And she had to steer her 
course between these two conceptions. The 
money alone made the real distinction, the 
separation ; the being, the life made the common 

i6i M 


Paolo had the curious peasants' avarice 
also, but it was not meanness. It was a sort 
of religious conservation of his own power, 
his own self. Fortunately he could leave all 
business transactions on our account to Maria, 
so that his relation with us was purely ritual- 
istic. He would have given me anything, 
trusting implicitly that I would fulfil my own 
nature as Signore, one of those more godlike, 
nearer the light of perfection than himself, a 
peasant. It was pure bliss to him to bring us 
the first-fruit of the garden, it was like laying 
it on an altar. 

And his fulfilment was in a fine, subtle, 
exquisite relationship, not of manners, but 
subtle interappreciation. He worshipped a 
finer understanding and a subtler tact. A 
further fineness and dignity and freedom in 
bearing was to him an approach towards the 
divine, so he loved men best of all, they ful- 
filled his soul. A woman was always a woman, 
and sex was a low level whereon he did not 
esteem himself. But a man, a doer, the 
instrument of God, he was really godlike. 

Paolo was a Conservative. For him the 
world was established and divine in its estab- 


lishment. His vision grasped a small circle. 
A finer nature, a higher understanding, took 
in a greater circle, comprehended the whole. 
So that when Paolo was in relation to a man of 
further vision, he himself was extended towards 
the whole. Thus he was fulfilled. And his 
initial assumption was that every signore, every 
gentleman, was a man of further, purer vision 
than himself. This assumption was false. But 
Maria's assumption, that no one had a further 
vision, no one was more elect than herself, 
that we are all one flesh and blood and being, 
was even more false. Paolo was mistaken in 
actual life, but Maria was ultimately mistaken. 
Paolo, conservative as he was, believing 
that a priest must be a priest of God, yet very 
rarely went to church. And he used the 
religious oaths that Maria hated, even Porca- 
Maria. He always used oaths, either Bacchus 
or God or Mary or the Sacrament. Maria was 
always offended. Yet it was she who, in her soul, 
jeered at the Church and at religion. She wanted 
the human society as the absolute, without re- 
ligious abstractions. So Paolo's oaths enraged 
her, because of their profanity, she said. But 
it was really because of their subscribing to 


another superhuman order. She jeered at the 
clerical people. She made a loud clamour of 
derision when the parish priest of the village 
above went down to the big village on the lake, 
and across the piazza, the quay, with two pigs 
in a sack on his shoulder. This was a real 
picture of the sacred minister to her. 

One day, when a storm had blown down 
an olive tree in front of the house, and Paolo 
and Giovanni were beginning to cut it up, 
this same priest of Mugiano came to San 
Gaudenzio. He was an iron-grey, thin, dis- 
reputable-looking priest, very talkative and 
loud and queer. He seemed like an old 
ne'er-do-well in priests* black, and he talked 
loudly, almost to himself, as drunken people 
do. At once he must show the Fiori how to 
cut up the tree, he must have the axe from 
Paolo. He shouted to Maria for a glass of 
wine. She brought it out to him with a sort 
of insolent deference, insolent contempt of 
the man and traditional deference to the cloth. 
The priest drained the tumblerful of wine at 
one drink, his thin throat with its Adam*s 
apple working. And he did not pay the 



Then he stripped off his cassock and put 
away his hat, and, a ludicrous figure in ill- 
fitting black knee-breeches and a not very 
clean shirt, a red handkerchief round his 
neck, he proceeded to give great extravagant 
blows at the tree. He was like a caricature. 
In the doorway Maria was encouraging him 
rather jeeringly, whilst she winked at me. 
Marco was stifling his hysterical amusement in 
his mother's apron, and prancing with glee. 
Paolo and Giovanni stood by the fallen tree, 
very grave and unmoved, inscrutable, abstract. 
Then the youth came away to the doorway, 
with a flush mounting on his face and a grimace 
distorting its youngness. Only Paolo, un- 
moved and detached, stood by the tree with 
unchanging, abstract face, very strange, his 
eyes fixed in the ageless stare which is so 

Meanwhile the priest swung drunken 
blows at the tree, his thin buttocks bending 
in the green-black broadcloth, supported on 
thin shanks, and thin throat growing dull 
purple in the red-knotted kerchief. Neverthe- 
less he was doing the job. His face was wet 
with sweat. He wanted another glass of wine. 



He took no notice of us. He was strangely 
a local, even a mountebank figure, but entirely 
local, an appurtenance of the district. 

It was Maria who jeeringly told us the story 
of the priest, who shrugged her shoulders to 
imply that he was a contemptible figure. 
Paolo sat with the abstract look on his face, as 
of one who hears and does not hear, is not 
really concerned. He never opposed or con- 
tradicted her, but stayed apart. It was she 
who was violent and brutal in her ways. But 
sometimes Paolo went into a rage, and then 
Maria, everybody, was afraid. It was a white 
heavy rage, when his blue eyes shone un- 
earthly, and his mouth opened with a curious 
drawn blindness of the old Furies. There 
was something of the cruelty of a falling 
mass of snow, heavy, horrible. Maria drew 
away, there was a silence. Then the avalanche 
was finished. 

They must have had some cruel fights 
before they learned to withdraw from each 
other so completely. They must have be- 
gotten Marco in hatred, terrible disintegrated 
opposition and otherness. And it was after 
this, after the child of their opposition was 


born, that Paolo went away to California, 
leaving his San Gaudenzio, travelling with 
several companions, like blind beasts, to Havre, 
and thence to New York, then to California. 
He stayed Hve years in the gold-mines, in a 
wild valley, living with a gang of Italians in 
a town of corrugated iron. 

All the while he had never really left San 
Gaudenzio. I asked him, ** Used you to 
think of it, the lake, the Monte Baldo, the 
laurel trees down the slope ? " He tried to 
see what I wanted to know. Yes, he said — 
but uncertainly. I could see that he had 
never been really homesick. It had been very 
wretched on the ship going from Havre to 
New York. That he told me about. And he 
told me about the gold-mines, the galleries, 
the valley, the huts in the valley. But he had 
never really fretted for San Gaudenzio whilst 
he was in California. 

In real truth he was at San Gaudenzio all 
the time, his fate was riveted there. His 
going away was an excursion from reality, a 
kind of sleep-walking. He left his own 
reality there in the soil above the lake of Garda. 
That his body was in California, what did it 



matter ? It was merely for a time, and for the 
sake of his own earth, his land. He would 
pay off the mortgage. But the gate at home 
was his gate all the time, his hand was on the 

As for Maria, he had felt his duty towards 
her. She was part of his little territory, the 
rooted centre of the world. He sent her home 
the money. But it did not occur to him, in 
his soul, to miss her. He wanted her to be 
safe with the children, that was all. In his 
flesh perhaps he missed the woman. But his 
spirit was even more completely isolated since 
marriage. Instead of having united with 
each other, they had made each other more 
terribly distinct and separate. He could live 
alone eternally. It was his condition. His 
sex was functional, like eating and drinking. 
To take a woman, a prostitute at the camp, 
or not to take her, was no more vitally im- 
portant than to get drunk or not to get 
drunk of a Sunday. And fairly often on 
Sunday Paolo got drunk. His world re- 
mained unaltered. 

But Maria suffered more bitterly. She 
was a young, powerful, passionate woman, 


and she was unsatisfied body and soul. Her 
soul's unsatisfaction became a bodily un- 
satisfaction. Her blood was heavy, violent, 
anarchic, insisting on the equality of the blood 
in all, and therefore on her own absolute right 
to satisfaction. 

She took a wine licence for San Gaudenzio, 
and she sold wine. There were many scandals 
about her. Somehow it did not matter very 
much, outwardly. The authorities were too 
divided among themselves to enforce public 
opinion. Between the clerical party and the 
radicals and the socialists, what canons were 
left that were absolute ? Besides, these wild 
villages had always been ungoverned. 

Yet Maria suffered. Even she, according 
to her conviction, belonged to Paolo. And 
she felt betrayed, betrayed and deserted. The 
iron had gone deep into her soul. Paolo had 
deserted her, she had been betrayed to other 
men for five years. There was something 
cruel and implacable in life. She sat sullen 
and heavy, for all her quick activity. Her 
soul was sullen and heavy. 

I could never believe Felicina was Paolo's 
child. She was an unprepossessing little girl, 


affected, cold, selfish, foolish. Maria and 
Paolo, with real Italian greatness, were warm 
and natural towards the child in her. But 
they did not love her in their very souls, she 
was the fruit of ash to them. And this must 
have been the reason that she was so self- 
conscious and foolish and affected, small child 
that she was. 

Paolo had come back from America a year 
before she was born — a year before she was 
born, Maria insisted. The husband and wife 
lived together in a relationship of complete 
negation. In his soul he was sad for her, 
and in her soul she felt annulled. He sat at 
evening in the chimney-seat, smoking, always 
pleasant and cheerful, not for a moment think- 
ing he was unhappy. It had all taken place 
in his subconsciousness. But his eyebrows 
and eyelids were lifted in a kind of vacancy, 
his blue eyes were round and somehow finished, 
though he was so gentle and vigorous in body. 
But the very quick of him was killed. He 
was like a ghost in the house, with his loose 
throat and powerful limbs, his open, blue 
extinct eyes, and his musical, slightly husky 
voice, that seemed to sound out of the past. 


And Maria, stout and strong and handsome 
like a peasant woman, went about as if there 
were a weight on her, and her voice was high 
and strident. She, too, was finished in her 
life. But she remained unbroken, her will 
was like a hammer that destroys the old form. 

Giovanni was patiently labouring to learn 
a little English. Paolo knew only four or 
five words, the chief of which were " a' right," 
"boss," "bread," and "day." The youth 
had these by heart, and was studying a little 
more. He was very graceful and lovable, 
but he found it difficult to learn. A confused 
light, like hot tears, would come into his eyes 
when he had again forgotten the phrase. But 
he carried the paper about with him, and he 
made steady progress. 

He would go to America, he also. Not 
for anything would he stay in San Gaudenzio. 
His dream was to be gone. He would come 
back. The world was not San Gaudenzio to 

The old order, the order of Paolo and of 

Pietro di Paoli, the aristocratic order of the 

supreme God, God the Father, the Lord, was 

passing away from the beautiful little territory. 



The household no longer receives its food, oil 
and wine and maize, from out of the earth in 
the motion of fate. The earth is annulled, and 
money takes its place. The landowner, who 
is the lieutenant of God and of Fate, like 
Abraham, he, too, is annulled. There is now 
the order of the rich, which supersedes the 
order of the Signoria. 

It is passing away from Italy as it has passed 
from England. The peasant is passing away, 
the workman is taking his place. The stability 
is gone. Paolo is a ghost, Maria is the living 
body. And the new order means sorrow for 
the Italian more even than it has meant for 
us. But he will have the new order. 

San Gaudenzio is already becoming a thing 
of the past. Below the house, where the land 
drops in sharp slips to the sheer cliff's edge, 
over which it is Maria's constant fear that 
Felicina will tumble, there are the deserted 
lemon gardens of the little territory, snug 
down below. They are invisible till one 
descends by tiny paths, sheer down into them. 
And there they stand, the pillars and walls 
erect, but a dead emptiness prevailing, lemon 
trees all dead, gone, a few vines in their place. 


It is only twenty years since the lemon trees 
finally perished of a disease and were not 
renewed. But the deserted terrace, shut be- 
tween great walls, descending in their openness 
full to the south, to the lake and the mountain 
opposite, seem more terrible than Pompeii in 
their silence and utter seclusion. The grape 
hyacinths flower in the cracks, the lizards run, 
this strange place hangs suspended and for- 
gotten, forgotten for ever, its erect pillars 
utterly meaningless. 

I used to sit and write in the great loft of 
the lemon house, high up, far, far from the 
ground, the open front giving across the lake 
and the mountain snow opposite flush with 
twilight. The old matting and boards, the 
old disused implements of lemon culture made 
shadows in the deserted place. Then there 
would come the call from the back, away 
above : " Venga, venga mangiare." 

We ate in the kitchen, where the olive and 
laurel wood burned in the open fireplace. It 
was always soup in the evening. Then we 
played games or cards, all playing ; or there 
was singing, with the accordion, and sometimes 
a rough mountain peasant with a guitar. 


But it is all passing away. Giovanni is in 
America, unless he has come back to the War. 
He will not want to live in San Gaudenzio 
when he is a man, he says. He and Marco 
will not spend their lives wringing a little oil 
and wine out of the rocky soil, even if they are 
not killed in the fighting which is going on at 
the end of the lake. In my loft by the lemon 
houses now I should hear the guns. And 
Giovanni kissed me with a kind of supplication 
when I went on to the steamer, as if he were 
beseeching for a soul. His eyes were bright 
and clear and lit up with courage. He will 
make a good fight for the new soul he wants 
— that is, if they do not kill him in this War. 




Maria had no real licence for San Gaudenzio, 
yet the peasants always called for wine. It is 
easy to arrange in Italy. The penny is paid 
another time. 

The wild old road that skirts the lake-side, 
scrambling always higher as the precipice 
becomes steeper, cHmbing and winding to the 
villages perched high up, passes under the 
high boundary-wall of San Gaudenzio, between 
that and the ruined church. But the road 
went just as much between the vines and past 
the house as outside, under the wall ; for the 
high gates were always open, and men or 
women and mules come into the property to 
call at the door of the homestead. There was 
a loud shout, " Ah — a — a — ah — Mari — *a. 
O — O — Oh Pa'o'l" from outside, another 


wild, inarticulate cry from within, and one of 
the Fiori appeared in the doorway to hail the 

It was usually a man, sometimes a peasant 
from Mugiano, high up, sometimes a peasant 
from the wilds of the mountain, a wood-cutter, 
or a charcoal-burner. He came in and sat 
in the house-place, his glass of wine in his 
hand between his knees, or on the floor 
between his feet, and he talked in a few wild 
phrases, very shy, like a hawk indoors, and 
unintelligible in his dialect. 

Sometimes we had a dance. Then, for 
the wine to drink, three men came with 
mandolines and guitars, and sat in a corner 
playing their rapid tunes, while all danced on 
the dusty brick floor of the little parlour. No 
strange women were invited, only men ; the 
young bloods from the big village on the lake, 
the wild men from above. They danced the 
slow, trailing, Hlting polka -waltz round and 
round the small room, the guitars and mando- 
lines twanging rapidly, the dust rising from 
the soft bricks. There were only the two 
English women : so men danced with men, 
as the Italians love to do. They love even 



better to dance with men, with a dear blood- 
friend, than with women. 

** It's better Hke this, two men ? " Giovanni 
says to me, his blue eyes hot, his face curiously 

The wood-cutters and peasants take off 
their coats, their throats are bare. They 
dance with strange intentness, particularly if 
they have for partner an English Signora. 
Their feet in thick boots are curiously swift 
and significant. And it is strange to see the 
Englishwomen, as they dance with the peasants, 
transfigured with a kind of brilliant surprise. 
All the while the peasants are very courteous, 
but quiet. They see the women dilate and 
flash, they think they have found a footing, 
they are certain. So the male dancers are 
quiet, but even grandiloquent, their feet nimble, 
their bodies wild and confident. 

They are at a loss when the two English 
Signoras move together and laugh excitedly 
at the end of the dance. 

" Isn't it fine ? " 

" Fine ! Their arms are like iron, carrying 
you round." 

" Yes 1 Yes ! And the muscles on their 
177 N 


shoulders ! I never knew there were such 
muscles ! I'm almost frightened." 

" But it's fine, isn't it ? I'm getting into 
the dance." 

" Yes — yes — you've only to let them take 

Then the glasses are put down, the guitars 
give their strange, vibrant, almost painful 
summons, and the dance begins again. 

It is a strange dance, strange and lilting, 
and changing as the music changed. But it 
had always a kind of leisurely dignity, a trailing 
kind of polka-waltz, intimate, passionate, yet 
never hurried, never violent in its passion, 
always becoming more intense. The women's 
faces changed to a kind of transported wonder, 
they were in the very rhythm of delight. From 
the soft bricks of the floor the red ochre 
rose in a thin cloud of dust, making hazy the 
shadowy dancers ; the three musicians, in their 
black hats and their cloaks, sat obscurely in 
the corner, making a music that came quicker 
and quicker, making a dance that grew swifter 
and more intense, more subtle, the men seeming 
to fly and to implicate other strange inter- 
rhythmic dance into the women, the women 



drifting and palpitating as if their souls shook 
and resounded to a breeze that was subtly 
rushing upon them, through them ; the men 
worked their feet, their thighs swifter, more 
vividly, the music came to an almost intolerable 
climax, there was a moment when the dance 
passed into a possession, the men caught up 
the women and swung them from the earth, 
leapt with them for a second, and then the 
next phase of the dance had begun, slower 
again, more subtly interwoven, taking perfect, 
oh, exquisite delight in every interrelated 
movement, a rhythm within a rhythm, a subtle 
approaching and drawing nearer to a climax, 
nearer, till, oh, there was the surpassing lift 
and swing of the women, when the woman's 
body seemed like a boat lifted over the powerful, 
exquisite wave of the man's body, perfect, 
for a moment, and then once more the slow, 
intense, nearer movement of the dance began, 
always nearer, nearer, always to a more perfect 

And the women waited as if in transport 

for the climax, when they would be flung into 

a movement surpassing all movement. They 

were flung, borne away, lifted like a boat on a 



supreme wave, into the zenith and nave of 
the heavens, consummate. 

Then suddenly the dance crashed to an end, 
and the dancers stood stranded, lost, bewildered, 
on a strange shore. The air was full of red 
dust, half-lit by the lamp on the wall ; the players 
in the corner were putting down their instru- 
ments to take up their glasses. 

And the dancers sat round the wall, crowd- 
ing in the little room, faint with the transport 
of repeated ecstasy. There was a subtle 
smile on the face of the men, subtle, knowing, 
so finely sensual that the conscious eyes could 
scarcely look at it. And the women were 
dazed, like creatures dazzled by too much 
light. The light was still on their faces, like 
a blindness, a reeling, like a transfiguration. 
The men were bringing wine, on a Httle tin 
tray, leaning with their proud, vivid loins, their 
faces flickering with the same subtle smile. 
Meanwhile, Maria Fiori was splashing water, 
much water, on the red floor. There was the 
smell of water among the glowing, transfigured 
men and women who sat gleaming in another 
world, round the walls. 

The peasants have chosen their women. 
1 80 


For the dark, handsome Englishwoman, who 
looks like a slightly malignant Madonna, 
comes II Duro ; for the ** bella bionda," the 
wood-cutter. But the peasants have always to 
take their turn after the young well-to-do men 
from the village below. 

Nevertheless, they are confident. They 
cannot understand the middle-class diffidence 
of the young men who wear collars and ties 
and finger-rings. 

The wood-cutter from the mountain is of 
medium height, dark, thin, and hard as a 
hatchet, with eyes that are black like the very 
flaming thrust of night. He is quite a savage. 
There is something strange about his dancing, 
the violent way he works one shoulder. He 
has a wooden leg, from the knee-joint. Yet 
he dances well, and is inordinately proud. He 
is fierce as a bird, and hard with energy as a 
thunderbolt. He will dance with the blonde 
signora. But he never speaks. He is like 
some violent natural phenomenon rather than 
a person. The woman begins to wilt a little 
in his possession. 

" £ bello — il ballo ? " he asks at length, 
one direct, flashing question. 


** Si — molto bello," cries the woman, glad 
to have speech again. 

The eyes of the wood-cutter flash like actual 
possession. He seems now to have come into 
his own. With all his senses, he is dominant, 

He is inconceivably vigorous in body, and 
his dancing is almost perfect, with a little 
catch in it, owing to his lameness, which brings 
almost a pure intoxication. Every muscle in 
his body is supple as steel, supple, as strong as 
thunder, and yet so quick, so delicately swift, 
it is almost unbearable. As he draws near to 
the swing, the climax, the ecstasy, he seems to 
lie in wait, there is a sense of a great strength 
crouching ready. Then it rushes forth, liquid, 
perfect, transcendent, the woman swoons over 
in the dance, and it goes on, enjoyment, infinite, 
incalculable enjoyment. He is like a god, a 
strange natural phenomenon, most intimate 
and compelling, wonderful. 

But he is not a human being. The woman, 
somewhere shocked in her independent soul, 
begins to fall away from him. She has another 
being, which he has not touched, and which 
she will fall back upon. The dance is over, 


she will fall back on herself. It is perfect, 
too perfect. 

During the next dance, while she is in the 
power of the educated Ettore, a perfect and 
calculated voluptuary, who knows how much he 
can get out of this Northern woman, and only 
how much, the wood-cutter stands on the edge 
of the darkness, in the open doorway, and 
watches. He is fixed upon her, established, 
perfect. And all the while she is aware of 
the insistent hawk-Uke poising of the face of 
the wood-cutter, poised on the edge of the 
darkness, in the doorway, in possession, unre- 

And she is angry. There is something 
stupid, absurd, in the hard, talon-like eyes 
watching so fiercely and so confidently in the 
doorway, sure, unmitigated. Has the creature 
no sense ? 

The woman reacts from him. For some 
time she will take no notice of him. But he 
waits, fixed. Then she comes near to him, 
and his will seems to take hold of her. He 
looks at her with a strange, proud, inhuman 
confidence, as if his influence with her was 
already accomplished. 



** Venga — venga un po*," he says, jerking 
his head strangely to the darkness. 

" What ? " she replies, and passes shaken 
and dilated and brilliant, consciously ignoring 
him, passes away among the others, among 
those who are safe. 

There is food in the kitchen, great hunks of 
bread, sliced sausage that Maria has made, 
wine, and a little coffee. But only the quality 
come to eat. The peasants may not come in. 
There is eating and drinking in the little 
house, the guitars are silent. It is eleven 

Then there is singing, the strange bestial 
singing of these hills. Sometimes the guitars 
can play an accompaniment, but usually not. 
Then the men Hft up their heads and send 
out the high, half-howling music, astounding. 
The words are in dialect. They argue among 
themselves for a moment : will the Signoria 
understand ? They sing. The Signoria does 
not understand in the least. So with a strange, 
slightly malignant triumph, the men sing all 
the verses of their song, sitting round the walls 
of the little parlour. Their throats move, 
their faces have a slight mocking smile. The 


boy capers in the doorway like a faun, with 
glee, his straight black hair falling over his 
forehead. The elder brother sits straight and 
flushed, but even his eyes glitter with a kind of 
yellow light of laughter. Paolo also sits quiet, 
with the invisible smile on his face. Only 
Maria, large and active, prospering now, keeps 
collected, ready to order a shrill silence in the 
same way as she orders the peasants, violently, 
to keep their places. 

The boy comes to me and says : 

" Do you know, Signore, what they are 
singing ? " 

" No," I say. 

So he capers with furious glee. The men 
with the watchful eyes, all roused, sit round 
the wall and sing more distinctly : 

Si verra la primavera 
Fiorann' le mandoline, 
Vienn' di basso Ic Trentine 
Coi 'taliani far* I'amor. 

But the next verses are so improper that I 
pretend not to understand. The women, 
with wakened, dilated faces, are listening, 
listening hard, their two faces beautiful in their 
attention, as if listening to something magical, 



a long way off. And the men sitting round the 
wall sing more plainly, coming nearer to the 
correct Italian. The song comes loud and 
vibrating and maliciously from their reedy 
throats, it penetrates everybody. The foreign 
women can understand the sound, they can 
feel the malicious, suggestive mockery. But 
they cannot catch the words. The smile be- 
comes more dangerous on the faces of the 

Then Maria Fiori sees that I have under- 
stood, and she cries, in her loud, overriding 
voice : 

" Basta — basta." 

The men get up, straighten their bodies 
with a curious, offering movement. The 
guitars and mandolines strike the vibrating 
strings. But the vague Northern reserve has 
come over the Englishwomen. They dance 
again, but without the fusion in the dance. 
They have had enough. 

The musicians are thanked, they rise and 
go into the night. The men pass off in pairs. 
But the wood-cutter, whose name and whose 
nickname I could never hear, still hovered on 
the edge of the darkness. 


Then Maria sent him also away, com- 
plaining that he was too wild, propria selvatico^ 
and only the " quality " remained, the well- 
to-do youths from below. There was a little 
more coffee, and a talking, a story of a man 
who had fallen over a declivity in a lonely 
part going home drunk in the evening, and 
had lain unfound for eighteen hours. Then 
a story of a donkey who had kicked a youth 
in the chest and killed him. 

But the women were tired, they would go 
to bed. Still the two young men would not 
go away. We all went out to look at the 

The stars were very bright overhead, the 
mountain opposite and the mountains behind 
us faintly outlined themselves on the sky. 
Below, the lake was a black gulf. A little 
wind blew cold from the Adige. 

In the morning the visitors had gone. 
They had insisted on staying the night. They 
had eaten eight eggs each and much bread 
at one o'clock in the morning. Then they 
had gone to sleep, lying on the floor in the 

In the early sunshine they had drunk coffee 


and gone down to the village on the lake. 
Maria was very pleased. She would have 
made a good deal of money. The young men 
were rich. Her cupidity seemed Hke her very 




The first time I saw II Duro was on a sunny 
day when there came up a party of pleasure- 
makers to San Gaudenzio. They were three 
women and three men. The women were in 
cotton frocks, one a large, dark, florid woman 
in pink, the other two rather insignificant. 
The men I scarcely noticed at first, except 
that two were young and one elderly. 

They were a queer party, even on a feast 
day, coming up purely for pleasure, in the 
morning, strange, and slightly uncertain, 
advancing between the vines. They greeted 
Maria and Paolo in loud, coarse voices. There 
was something blowsy and uncertain and 
hesitating about the women in particular, 
which made one at once notice them. 

Then a picnic was arranged for them out 


of doors, on the grass. They sat just in front 
of the house, under the olive tree, beyond the 
well. It should have been pretty, the women 
in their cotton frocks, and their friends, sitting 
with wine and food in the spring sunshine. 
But somehow it was not : it was hard and 
slightly ugly. 

But since they were picnicking out of doors, 
we must do so too. We were at once envious. 
But Maria was a little unwilling, and then she 
set a table for us. 

The strange party did not speak to us, 
they seemed slightly uneasy and angry at 
our presence. I asked Maria who they were. 
She lifted her shoulders, and, after a second's 
cold pause, said they were people from down 
below, and then, in her rather strident, shrill, 
slightly bitter, slightly derogatory voice, she 
added : 

" They are not people for you, signore. 
You don't know them." 

She spoke slightly angrily and contemptu- 
ously of them, rather protectively of me. So 
that vaguely I gathered that they were not 
quite " respectable." 

Only one man came into the house. He 


was very handsome, beautiful rather, a man of 
thirty-two or -three, with a clear golden skin, 
and perfectly turned face, something godlike. 
But the expression was strange. His hair 
was jet black and fine and smooth, glossy as a 
bird's wing, his brows were beautifully drawn, 
calm above his grey eyes, that had long dark 

His eyes, however, had a sinister light in 
them, a pale, slightly repelling gleam, very 
much like a god's pale-gleaming eyes, with 
the same vivid pallor. And all his face had 
the slightly malignant, suffering look of a satyr. 
Yet he was very beautiful. 

He walked quickly and surely, with his 
head rather down, passing from his desire to his 
object, absorbed, yet curiously indifferent, as if 
the transit were in a strange world, as if none 
of what he was doing were worth the while. 
Yet he did it for his own pleasure, and the 
light on his face, a pale, strange gleam through 
his clear skin, remained like a translucent smile, 
unchanging as time. 

He seemed familiar with the household, 
he came and fetched wine at his will. Maria 
was angry with him. She railed loudly and 


violently. He was unchanged. He went out 
with the wine to the party on the grass. Maria 
regarded them all with some hostility. 

They drank a good deal out there in the 
sunshine. The women and the older man 
talked floridly. II Duro crouched at the feast 
in his curious fashion — he had strangely flexible 
loins, upon which he seemed to crouch forward. 
But he was separate, like an animal that remains 
quite single, no matter where it is. 

The party remained until about two o'clock. 
Then, slightly flushed, it moved on in a ragged 
group up to the village beyond. I do not 
know if they went to one of the inns of the 
stony village, or to the large strange house 
which belonged to the rich young grocer 
of the village below, a house kept only for 
feasts and riots, uninhabited for the most part. 
Maria would tell me nothing about them. 
Only the young well-to-do grocer, who had 
lived in Vienna, the Bertolotti, came later in 
the afternoon enquiring for the party. 

And towards sunset I saw the elderly man 

of the group stumbling home very drunk 

down the path, after the two women, who had 

gone on in front. Then Paolo sent Giovanni 



to see the drunken one safely past the landslip, 
which was dangerous. Altogether it was an 
unsatisfactory business, very much like any 
other such party in any other country. 

Then in the evening II Duro came in. His 
name is Faustino, but everybody in the village 
has a nickname, which is almost invariably 
used. He came in and asked for supper. We 
had all eaten. So he ate a little food alone at 
the table, whilst we sat round the fire. 

Afterwards we played " Up, Jenkins." That 
was the one game we played with the peasants, 
except that exciting one of theirs, which 
consists in shouting in rapid succession your 
guesses at the number of fingers rapidly spread 
out and shut into the hands again upon the 

II Duro joined in the game. And that 
was because he had been in America, and 
now was rich. He felt he could come near 
to the strange signori. But he was always 

It was queer to look at the hands spread on 

the table : the Englishwomen, having rings 

on their soft fingers ; the large fresh hands of 

the elder boy, the brown paws of the younger ; 

193 o 


Paolo's distorted great hard hands of a peasant ; 
and the big, dark brown, animal, shapely hands 
of Faustino. 

He had been in America first for two years 
and then for five years — seven years altogether 
— but he only spoke a very little English. He 
was always with Italians. He had served 
chiefly in a flag factory, and had had very little 
to do save to push a trolley with flags from the 
dyeing-room to the drying-room — I believe it 
was this. 

Then he had come home from America 
with a fair amount of money, he had taken 
his uncle's garden, had inherited his uncle's 
little house, and he lived quite alone. 

He was rich, Maria said, shouting in her 
strident voice. He at once disclaimed it, 
peasant-wise. But before the signori he was 
glad also to appear rich. He was mean, that 
was more, Maria cried, half- teasing, half 
getting at him. 

He attended to his garden, grew vegetables 
all the year round, lived in his little house, and 
in spring made good money as a vine-grafter : 
he was an expert vine-grafter. 

After the boys had gone to bed he sat and 


talked to me. He was curiously attractive 
and curiously beautiful, but somehow like 
stone in his clear colouring and his clear-cut 
face. His temples, with the black hair, were 
distinct and fine as a work of art. 

But always his eyes had this strange, 
half- diabolic, half- tortured pale gleam, like 
a goat's, and his mouth was shut almost 
uglily, his cheeks stern. His moustache was 
brown, his teeth strong and spaced. The 
women said it was a pity his moustache was 

" Peccato! — sa, per bellezza, i baffi neri — 

Then a long-drawn exclamation of voluptu- 
ous appreciation. 

" You live quite alone .'^ " I said to him. 

He did. And even when he had been 
ill he was alone. He had been ill two 
years before. His cheeks seemed to harden 
like marble and to become pale at the 
thought. He was afraid, like marble with 

" But why," I said, " why do you live 
alone ? You are sad — e triste.'* 

He looked at me with his queer, pale eyes. 



I felt a great static misery in him, something 
very strange. 

" Triste ! '* he repeated, stiffening up, 
hostile. I could not understand. 

" Vuor dire che hai V aria dolorosa,'* cried 
Maria, like a chorus interpreting. And there 
was always a sort of loud ring of challenge 
somewhere in her voice. 

" Sad," I said in English. 

" Sad ! " he repeated, also in English. And 
he did not smile or change, only his face seemed 
to become more stone-like. And he only 
looked at me, into my eyes, with the long, 
pale, steady, inscrutable look of a goat, I can 
only repeat, something stone-like. 

" Why," I said, " don't you marry ? Man 
doesn't live alone." 

** I don't marry," he said to me, in his 
emphatic, deliberate, cold fashion, " because 
I've seen too much. Ho visto troppo." 

" I don't understand," I said. 

Yet I could feel that Paolo, sitting silent, 
like a monolith also, in the chimney opening, 
he understood : Maria also understood. 

II Duro looked again steadily into my 



** Ho visto troppo," he repeated, and the 
words seemed engraved on stone. ** IVe 
seen too much." 

" But you can marry/' I said, " however 
much you have seen, if you have seen all the 

He watched me steadily, like a strange 
creature looking at me. 

" What woman ? " he said to me. 

** You can find a woman — there are plenty 
of women," I said. 

*' Not for me," he said. " I have known 
too many. Tve known too much, I can marry 

** Do you dislike women ? " I said. 

" No — quite otherwise. I don't think 
ill of them." 

" Then why can't you marry ? Why must 
you live alone ? " 

" Why live with a woman ? " he said to me, 
and he looked mockingly. "Which woman 
is it to be ? " 

" You can find her," I said. ** There are 
many women." 

Again he shook his head in the stony, final 



" Not for me. I have known too much." 

" But does that prevent you from 
marrying ? " 

He looked at me steadily, finally. And I 
could see it was impossible for us to understand 
each other, or for me to understand him. I 
could not understand the strange white gleam 
of his eyes, where it came from. 

Also I knew he liked me very much, almost 
loved me, which again was strange and 
puzzling. It was as if he were a fairy, a faun, 
and had no soul. But he gave me a feeling 
of vivid sadness, a sadness that gleamed like 
phosphorescence. He himself was not sad. 
There was a completeness about him, about 
the pallid otherworld he inhabited, which ex- 
cluded sadness. It was too complete, too 
final, too defined. There was no yearning, no 
vague merging off into mistiness. . . . He was 
as clear and fine as semi-transparent rock, as 
a substance in moonlight. He seemed like a 
crystal that has achieved its final shape and has 
nothing more to achieve. 

That night he slept on the floor of the sitting- 
room. In the morning he was gone. But a 
week after he came again, to graft the vines. 


All the morning and the afternoon he was 
among the vines, crouching before them, 
cutting them back with his sharp, bright 
knife, amazingly swift and sure, Hke a god. 
It filled me with a sort of panic to see him 
crouched flexibly, like some strange animal 
god, doubled on his haunches, before the young 
vines, and swiftly, vividly, without thought, 
cut, cut, cut at the young budding shoots, 
which fell unheeded on to the earth. Then 
again he strode with his curious half-goatlike 
movement across the garden, to prepare the 

He mixed the messy stuff, cow-dung and 
lime and water and earth, carefully with his 
hands, as if he understood that too. He was 
not a worker. He was a creature in intimate 
communion with the sensible world, knowing 
purely by touch the limey mess he mixed 
amongst, knowing as if by relation between 
that soft matter and the matter of himself. 

Then again he strode over the earth, a 
gleaming piece of earth himself, moving to 
the young vines. Quickly, with a few clean 
cuts of the knife, he prepared the new shoot, 
which he had picked out of a handful which 


lay beside him on the ground ; he went finely 
to the quick of the plant, inserted the graft, 
then bound it up, fast, hard. 

It was like God grafting the life of man 
upon the body of the earth, intimately con- 
juring with his own flesh. 

All the while Paolo stood by, somehow 
excluded from the mystery, talking to me, to 
Faustino. And II Duro answered easily, as 
if his mind were disengaged. It was his 
senses that were absorbed in the sensible life 
of the plant, and the lime and the cow-dung 
he handled. 

Watching him, watching his absorbed, 
bestial, and yet godlike crouching before the 
plant, as if he were the god of lower life, I 
somehow understood his isolation, why he did 
not marry. Pan and the ministers of Pan do 
not marry, the sylvan gods. They are single 
and isolated in their being. 

It is in the spirit that marriage takes place. 
In the flesh there is connection, but only in 
the spirit is there a new thing created out of 
two different antithetic things. In the body 
I am conjoined with the woman. But in the 
spirit my conjunction with her creates a third 


thing, an absolute, a Word, which is neither 
me nor her, nor of me nor of her, but which 
is absolute. 

And Faustino had none of this spirit. In 
him sensation itself was absolute — not spiritual 
consummation, but physical sensation. So he 
could not marry, it was not for him. He 
belonged to the god Pan, to the absolute of 
the senses. 

All the while his beauty, so perfect and so 
defined, fascinated me, a strange static per- 
fection about him. But his movements, whilst 
they fascinated, also repelled. I can always 
see him crouched before the vines on his 
haunches, his haunches doubled together in 
a complete animal unconsciousness, his face 
seeming in its strange golden pallor and its 
hardness of line, with the gleaming black of 
the fine hair on the brow and temples, like 
something reflective, like the reflecting surface 
of a stone that gleams out of the depths of 
night. It was like darkness revealed in its 
steady, unchanging pallor. 

Again he stayed through the evening, having 
quarrelled once more with the Maria about 
money. He quarrelled violently, yet coldly. 



There was something terrifying in it. And 
as soon as the matter of dispute was settled, 
all trace of interest or feeling vanished from 

Yet he liked, above all things, to be near 
the English signori. They seemed to exercise 
a sort of magnetic attraction over him. It 
was something of the purely physical world, 
as a magnetised needle swings towards soft 
iron. He was quite helpless in the relation. 
Only by mechanical attraction he gravitated 
into line with us. 

But there was nothing between us except 
our complete difference. It was like night 
and day flowing together. 

2 02 



Besides II Duro, we found another Italian 
who could speak English, this time quite well. 
We had walked about four or five miles up the 
lake, getting higher and higher. Then quite 
suddenly, on the shoulder of a bluff far up, we 
came on a village, icy cold, and as if forgotten. 

We went into the inn to drink something 
hot. The fire of olive sticks was burning 
in the open chimney, one or two men were 
talking at a table, a young woman with a baby 
stood by the fire watching something boil in 
a large pot. Another woman was seen in the 
house-place beyond. 

In the chimney-seats sat a young mule- 
driver, who had left his two mules at the door 
of the inn, and opposite him an elderly stout 
man. They got down and offered us the 


seats of honour, which we accepted with due 

The chimneys are like the wide, open 
chimney-places of old English cottages, but 
the hearth is raised about a foot and a half 
or two feet from the floor, so that the fire is 
almost level with the hands ; and those who 
sit in the chimney-seats are raised above the 
audience in the room, something like two gods 
flanking the fire, looking out of the cave of 
ruddy darkness into the open, lower world 
of the room. 

We asked for coffee with milk and rum. 
The stout landlord took a seat near us below. 
The comely young woman with the baby 
took the tin coffee-pot that stood among the 
grey ashes, put in fresh coffee among the old 
bottoms, filled it with water, then pushed it 
more into the fire. 

The landlord turned to us with the usual 
naive, curious deference, and the usual question: 

*' You are Germans ? '* 

** English.'* 

" Ah— Inglesi." 

Then there is a new note of cordiality — or 
so I always imagine — and the rather rough, 


cattle-like men who are sitting with their wine 
round the table look up more amicably. They 
do not like being intruded upon. Only the 
landlord is always affable. 

" I have a son who speaks English," he 
says : he is a handsome, courtly old man, of 
the Falstaff sort. 

" Oh ! " 

" He has been in America." 

" And where is he now ? " 

** He is at home. O Nicoletta, where 

is the Giovann* ? '* 

The comely young woman with the baby 
came in. 

" He is with the band," she said. 

The old landlord looked at her with pride, 

" This is my daughter-in-law," he said. 

She smiled readily to the Signora. 

" And the baby ? " we asked. 

** Mio figlio," cried the young woman, in 
the strong, penetrating voice of these women. 
And she came forward to show the child to 
the Signora. 

It was a bonny baby : the whole company 
was united in adoration and service of the 
bambino. There was a moment of suspension, 


when religious submission seemed to come 
over the inn-room. 

Then the Signora began to talk, and it 
broke upon the Italian child-reverence. 

" What is he called ? " 

" Oscare," came the ringing note of pride. 
And the mother talked to the baby in dialect. 
All, men and women alike, felt themselves 
glorified by the presence of the child. 

At last the coffee in the tin coffee-pot was 
boiling and frothing out of spout and lid. 
The milk in the little copper pan was also hot, 
among the ashes. So we had our drink at 

The landlord was anxious for us to see 
Giovanni, his son. There was a village band 
performing up the street, in front of the house 
of a colonel who had come home wounded 
from Tripoli. Everybody in the village was 
wildly proud about the colonel and about the 
brass band, the music of which was execrable. 

We just looked into the street. The band 
of uncouth fellows was playing the same tune 
over and over again before a desolate, newish 
house. A crowd of desolate, forgotten vil- 
lagers stood round, in the cold upper air. It 


seemed altogether that the place was forgotten 
by God and man. 

But the landlord, burly, courteous, hand- 
some, pointed out with a flourish the Giovanni, 
standing in the band playing a cornet. The 
band itself consisted only of five men, rather 
like beggars in the street. But Giovanni was 
the strangest ! He was tall and thin and 
somewhat German - looking, wearing shabby 
American clothes and a very high double 
collar and a small American crush hat. He 
looked entirely like a ne'er-do-well who plays 
a violin in the street, dressed in the most 
down-at-heel, sordid respectability. 

" That is he — you see, Signore — the young 
one under the balcony." 

The father spoke with love and pride, and 
the father was a gentleman, like FalstafF, a pure 
gentleman. The daughter-in-law also peered 
out to look at II Giovann', who was evidently 
a figure of repute, in his sordid, degenerate 
American respectability. Meanwhile, this 
figure of repute blew himself red in the face, 
producing staccato strains on his cornet. And 
the crowd stood desolate and forsaken in the 
cold, upper afternoon. 



Then there was a sudden rugged " Ewiva, 
Evviva ! " from the people, the band stopped 
playing, somebody valiantly broke into a line 
of the song : 

Tripoli, sara italiana, 

Sara italiana al rombo del cannon*. 

The colonel had appeared on the balcony, 
a smallish man, very yellow in the face, with 
grizzled black hair and very shabby legs. 
They all seemed so sordidly, hopelessly 

He suddenly began to speak, leaning for- 
ward, hot and feverish and yellow, upon the 
iron rail of the balcony. There was something 
hot and marshy and sick about him, slightly 
repulsive, less than human. He told his 
fellow-villagers how he loved them, how, when 
he lay uncovered on the sands of Tripoli, week 
after week, he had known they were watching 
him from the Alpine height of the village, he 
could feel that where he was they were all 
looking. When the Arabs came rushing like 
things gone mad, and he had received his 
wound, he had known that in his own village, 
among his own dear ones, there was recovery. 
Love would heal the wounds, the home country 


was a lover who would heal all her sons* 
wounds with love. 

Among the grey desolate crowd were 
sharp, rending ** Bravos! " — the people were 
in tears — the landlord at my side was repeating 
softly, abstractedly : '* Caro — caro — Ettore, 

caro colonello " and when it was finished, 

and the little colonel with shabby, humiliated 
legs was gone in, he turned to me and said, 
with challenge that almost frightened me : 

" Un brav' uomo.'* 

" Bravissimo," I said. 

Then we, too, went indoors. 

It was all, somehow, grey and hopeless and 
acrid, unendurable. 

The colonel, poor devil — we knew him 
afterwards — is now dead. It is strange that 
he is dead. There is something repulsive to 
me in the thought of his lying dead : such a 
humiliating, somehow degraded corpse. Death 
has no beauty in Italy, unless it be violent. 
The death of man or woman through sick- 
ness is an occasion of horror, repulsive. They 
belong entirely to life, they are so limited to 
life, these people. 

Soon the Giovanni came home, and took 
209 p 


his cornet upstairs. Then he came to see us. 
He was an ingenuous youth, sordidly shabby 
and dirty. His fair hair was long and uneven, 
his very high starched collar made one aware 
that his neck and his ears were not clean, his 
American crimson tie was ugly, his clothes 
looked as if they had been kicking about on 
the floor for a year. 

Yet his blue eyes were warm and his manner 
and speech very gentle. 

" You will speak English with us,'* I said. 

" Oh,** he said, smiling and shaking his 
head, ** I could speak English very well. But 
it is two years that I don't speak it now, over 
two years now, so I don't speak it." 

" But you speak it very well." 

" No. It is two years that I have not 
spoke, not a word — so, you see, I have " 

" You have forgotten it ? No, you haven't. 
It will quickly come back." 

" If I hear it — when I go to America — 
then I shall— I shall " 

" You will soon pick it up." 

" Yes— I shall pick it up." 

The landlord, who had been watching with 
pride, now went away. The wife also went 



away, and we were left with the shy, gentle, 
dirty, and frowsily-dressed Giovanni. 

He laughed in his sensitive, quick fashion. 

** The women in America, when they came 
into the store, they said, * Where is John, 
where is John ? * Yes, they liked me." 

And he laughed again, glancing with vague, 
warm blue eyes, very shy, very coiled upon 
himself with sensitiveness. 

He had managed a store in America, in 
a smallish town. I glanced at his reddish, 
smooth, rather knuckly hands, and thin wrists 
in the frayed cuff. They were real shopman's 

The landlord brought some special feast- 
day cake, so overjoyed he was to have his 
Giovanni speaking English with the Signoria. 

When we went away, we asked *' John " 
to come down to our villa to see us. We 
scarcely expected him to turn up. 

Yet one morning he appeared, at about 
half-past nine, just as we were finishing break- 
fast. It was sunny and warm and beautiful, 
so we asked him please to come with us pic- 

He was a queer shoot, again, in his un- 



kempt longish hair and slovenly clothes, a 
sort of very vulgar down-at-heel American in 
appearance. And he was transported with 
shyness. Yet ours was the world he had chosen 
as his own, so he took his place bravely and 
simply, a hanger-on. 

We climbed up the water-course in the 
mountain-side, up to a smooth little lawn 
under the olive trees, where daisies were 
flowering and gladioli were in bud. It was 
a tiny little lawn of grass in a level crevice, 
and sitting there we had the world below us 
— the lake, the distant island, the far-off low 
Verona shore. 

Then " John " began to talk, and he talked 
continuously, like a foreigner, not saying the 
things he would have said in Italian, but 
following the suggestion and scope of his 
limited English. 

In the first place, he loved his father — it 
was " my father, my father " always. His 
father had a little shop as well as the inn in 
the village above. So John had had some 
education. He had been sent to Brescia and 
then to Verona to school, and there had taken 
his examinations to become a civil engineer. 



He was clever, and could pass his examinations. 
But he never finished his course. His mother 
died, and his father, disconsolate, had wanted 
him at home. Then he had gone back, when 
he was sixteen or seventeen, to the village 
beyond the lake, to be with his father and to 
look after the shop. 

" But didn't you mind giving up all your 
work ? " I said. 

He did not quite understand. 

" My father wanted me to come back," he 

It was evident that Giovanni had had no 
definite conception of what he was doing or 
what he wanted to do. His father, wishing 
to make a gentleman of him, had sent him to 
school in Verona. By accident he had been 
moved on into the engineering course. When 
it all fizzled to an end, and he returned half- 
baked to the remote, desolate village of the 
mountain-side, he was not disappointed or 
chagrined. He had never conceived of a 
coherent purposive life. Either one stayed 
in the village, like a lodged stone, or one made 
random excursions into the world, across the 
world. It was all aimless and purposeless. 


So he had stayed a while with his father, 
then he had gone, just as aimlessly, with a 
party of men who were emigrating to America. 
He had taken some money, had drifted 
about, living in the most comfortless, wretched 
fashion, then he had found a place somewhere 
in Pennsylvania, in a dry goods store. This 
was when he was seventeen or eighteen years 

All this seemed to have happened to him 
without his being very much affected, at least 
consciously. His nature was simple and self- 
complete. Yet not so self-complete as that of 
II Duro or Paolo. They had passed through 
the foreign world and been quite untouched. 
Their souls were static, it was the world that 
had flowed unstable by. 

But John was more sensitive, he had come 
more into contact with his new surroundings. 
He had attended night classes almost every 
evening, and had been taught English like 
a child. He had loved the American free 
school, the teachers, the work. 

But he had suffered very much in America. 
With his curious, over-sensitive, wincing laugh, 
he told us how the boys had followed him and 


jeered at him, calling after him, " You damn 
Dago, you damn Dago." They had stopped 
him and his friend in the street and taken 
away their hats, and spat into them. So that 
at last he had gone mad. They were youths 
and men who always tortured him, using bad 
language which startled us very much as he 
repeated it, there on the little lawn under the 
olive trees, above the perfect lake : English 
obscenities and abuse so coarse and startling 
that we bit our lips, shocked almost into 
laughter, whilst John, simple and natural, and 
somehow, for all his long hair and dirty appear- 
ance, flower-like in soul, repeated to us these 
things which may never be repeated in decent 

" Oh," he said, " at last, I get mad. When 
they come one day, shouting, * You damn 
Dago, dirty dog,* and will take my hat again, 
oh, I get mad, and I would kill them. I 
would kill them, I am so mad. I run to them, 
and throw one to the floor, and I tread on him 
while I go upon another, the biggest. Though 
they hit me and kick me all over, I feel nothing, 
I am mad. I throw the biggest to the floor, 
a man ; he is older than I am, and I hit him so 


hard I would kill him. When the others see 
it they are afraid, they throw stones and hit 
me on the face. But I don't feel it — I don't 
know nothing. I hit the man on the floor, I 
almost kill him. I forget everything except I 
will kill him " 

" But you didn't ? " 

" No — I don't know " and he laughed 

his queer, shaken laugh. " The other man 
that was with me, my friend, he came to me 
and we went away. Oh, I was mad, I was 
completely mad. I would have killed them." 

He was trembling slightly, and his eyes 
were dilated with a strange greyish-blue fire 
that was very painful and elemental. He 
looked beside himself. But he was by no 
means mad. 

We were shaken by the vivid, lambent 
excitement of the youth, we wished him to 
forget. We were shocked, too, in our souls 
to see the pure elemental flame shaken out 
of his gentle, sensitive nature. By his slight, 
crinkled laugh we could see how much he had 
suffered. He had gone out and faced the 
world, and he had kept his place, stranger and 
Dago though he was. 



** They never came after me no more, not 
all the while I was there." 

Then he said he became the foreman in 
the store — at first he was only assistant. It 
was the best store in the town, and many 
English ladies came, and some Germans, 
He liked the English ladies very much : they 
always wanted him to be in the store. He 
wore white clothes there, and they would 
say : 

" You look very nice in the white coat, 
John " ; or else : 

" Let John come, he can find it " ; or else 
they said : 

** John speaks like a born American." 

This pleased him very much. 

In the end, he said, he earned a hundred 
dollars a month. He lived with the extra- 
ordinary frugality of the Italians, and had quite 
a lot of money. 

He was not like II Duro. Faustino had 
lived in a state of miserliness almost in 
America, but then he had had his de- 
bauches of shows and wine and carousals. 
John went chiefly to the schools, in one of 
which he was even asked to teach Italian. 


His knowledge of his own language was re- 
markable and most unusual! 

" But what," I asked, " brought you back ? " 

" It was my father. You see, if I did not 

come to have my military service, I must 

stay till I am forty. So I think perhaps my 

father will be dead, I shall never see him. So 


He had come home when he was twenty 
to fulfil his military duties. At home he had 
married. He was very fond of his wife, but 
he had no conception of love in the old sense. 
His wife was like the past, to which he was 
wedded. Out of her he begot his child, as 
out of the past. But the future was all beyond 
her, apart from her. He was going away 
again, now, to America. He had been some 
nine months at home after his military service 
was over. He had no more to do. Now he 
was leaving his wife and child and his father 
to go to America. 

" But why," I said, " why ? You are not 
poor, you can manage the shop in your village." 

*' Yes," he said. " But I will go to America. 
Perhaps I shall go into the store again, the 



** But is it not just the same as managing 
the shop at home ? " 

" No — no — it is quite different." 

Then he told us how he bought goods in 
Brescia and in Salo for the shop at home, 
how he had rigged up a funicular with the 
assistance of the village, an overhead wire by 
which you could haul the goods up the face of 
the cliffs right high up, to within a mile of the 
village. He was very proud of this. And 
sometimes he himself went down the funicular 
to the water's edge, to the boat, when he was 
in a hurry. This also pleased him. 

But he was going to Brescia this day to see 
about going again to America. Perhaps in 
another month he would be gone. 

It was a great puzzle to me why he would 
go. He could not say himself. He would 
stay four or Rve years, then he would come 
home again to see his father — and his wife 
and child. 

There was a strange, almost frightening 
destiny upon him, which seemed to take him 
away, always away from home, from the past, 
to that great, raw America. He seemed 
scarcely like a person with individual choice, 


more like a creature under the influence of fate 
which was disintegrating the old life and pre- 
cipitating him, a fragment inconclusive, into 
the new chaos. 

He submitted to it all with a perfect un- 
questioning simplicity, never even knowing 
that he suffered, that he must suffer dis- 
integration from the old life. He was moved 
entirely from within, he never questioned his 
inevitable impulse. 

" They say to me, * Don't go — don't go ' — " 
he shook his head. " But I say I will go.'* 

And at that it was finished. 

So we saw him off at the little quay, going 
down the lake. He would return at evening, 
and be pulled up in his funicular basket. 
And in a month's time he would be standing 
on the same lake steamer going to America. 

Nothing was more painful than to see him 
standing there in his degraded, sordid Ameri- 
can clothes, on the deck of the steamer, waving 
us good-bye, belonging in his final desire to 
our world, the world of consciousness and 
deliberate action. With his candid, open, 
unquestioning face, he seemed like a prisoner 
being conveyed from one form of life to an- 


other, or like a soul in trajectory, that has not 
yet found a resting-place. 

What were wife and child to him ? — they 
were the last steps of the past. His father 
was the continent behind him ; his wife and 
child the foreshore of the past ; but his face 
was set outwards, away from it all — whither, 
neither he nor anybody knew, but he called 
it America. 




When I was in Constance the weather was 
misty and enervating and depressing, it was 
no pleasure to travel on the big flat desolate 

When I went from Constance, it was on a 
small steamer down the Rhine to Schaffhausen. 
That was beautiful. Still, the mist hung 
over the waters, over the wide shallows of the 
river, and the sun, coming through the morn- 
ing, made lovely yellow lights beneath the 
bluish haze, so that it seemed Uke the beginning 
of the world. And there was a hawk in the 
upper air fighting with two crows, or two 
rooks. Ever they rose higher and higher, 
the crow flickering above the attacking hawk, 
the fight going on like some strange symbol in 
the sky, the Germans on deck watching with 

Then we passed out of sight between 
225 Q 


wooded banks and under bridges where quaint 
villages of old romance piled their red and 
coloured pointed roofs beside the water, very 
still, remote, lost in the vagueness of the past. 
It could not be that they were real. Even 
when the boat put in to shore, and the customs 
officials came to look, the village remained 
remote in the romantic past of High Germany, 
the Germany of fairy tales and minstrels and 
craftsmen. The poignancy of the past was 
almost unbearable, floating there in colour 
upon the haze of the river. 

We went by some swimmers, whose white 
shadowy bodies trembled near the side of the 
steamer under water. One man with a round, 
fair head lifted his face and one arm from the 
water and shouted a greeting to us, as if he 
were a Niebelung, saluting with bright arm 
lifted from the water, his face laughing, the 
fair moustache hanging over his mouth. Then 
his white body swirled in the water, and he 
was gone, swimming with the side stroke. 

Schaffhausen the town, half old and bygone, 

half modern, with breweries and industries, 

that is not very real. Schaflfhausen Falls, 

with their factory in the midst and their hotel 



at the bottom, and the general cinematograph 
effect, they are ugly. 

It was afternoon when I set out to walk 
from the Falls to Italy, across Switzerland. I 
remember the big, fat, rather gloomy fields 
of this part of Baden, damp and unliving. I 
remember I found some apples under a tree 
in a field near a railway embankment, then 
some mushrooms, and I ate both. Then I 
came on to a long, desolate high-road, with 
dreary, withered trees on either side, and 
flanked by great fields where groups of men 
and women were working. They looked at 
me as I went by down the long, long road, 
alone and exposed and out of the world. 

I remember nobody came at the border 
village to examine my pack, I passed through 
unchallenged. All was quiet and lifeless and 
hopeless, with big stretches of heavy land. 

Till sunset came, very red and purple, and 
suddenly, from the heavy spacious open land 
I dropped sharply into the Rhine valley again, 
suddenly, as if into another glamorous world. 

There was the river rushing along between 
its high, mysterious, romantic banks, which 
were high as hills, and covered with vine. 


And there was the village of tall, quaint houses 
flickering its lights on to the deep-flowing 
river, and quite silent, save for the rushing of 

There was a fine covered bridge, very dark. 
I went to the middle and looked through the 
opening at the dark water below, at the facade 
of square lights, the tall village-front towering 
remote and silent above the river. The hill 
rose on either side the flood; down here was 
a small, forgotten, wonderful world that 
belonged to the date of isolated village com- 
munities and wandering minstrels. 

So I went back to the inn of " The Golden 
Stag," and, climbing some steps, I made a loud 
noise. A woman came, and I asked for food. 
She led me through a room where were enor- 
mous barrels, ten feet in diameter, lying fatly 
on their sides ; then through a large stone- 
clean kitchen, with bright pans, ancient as 
the Meistersinger ; then up some steps and 
into the long guest-room, where a few tables 
were laid for supper. 

A few people were eating. I asked for 
Abendessen, and sat by the window looking at 
the darkness of the river below, the covered 


bridge, the dark hill opposite, crested with 
its few lights. 

Then I ate a very large quantity of knoedel 
soup and bread, and drank beer, and was very 
sleepy. Only one or two village men came in, 
and these soon went again ; the place was dead 
still. Only at a long table on the opposite 
side of the room were seated seven or eight men, 
ragged, disreputable, some impudent — another 
came in late ; the landlady gave them all thick 
soup with dumplings and bread and meat, 
serving them in a sort of brief disapprobation. 
They sat at the long table, eight or nine tramps 
and beggars and wanderers out of work, and 
they ate with a sort of cheerful callousness and 
brutality for the most part, and as if ravenously, 
looking round and grinning sometimes, sub- 
dued, cowed, like prisoners, and yet impudent. 
At the end one shouted to know where he was 
to sleep. The landlady called to the young 
serving - woman, and in a classic German 
severity of disapprobation they were led up the 
stone stairs to their room. They tramped off 
in threes and twos, making a bad, mean, 
humiliated exit. It was not yet eight o'clock. 
The landlady sat talking to one bearded man, 


staid and severe, whilst, with her work on the 
table, she sewed steadily. 

As the beggars and wanderers went slink- 
ing out of the room, some called impudently, 
cheerfully : 

" Nacht, Frau Wirtin— G'Nacht, Wirtin— 
*te Nacht, Frau," to all of which the hostess 
answered a stereotyped " Gute Nacht," never 
turning her head from her sewing, or indicating 
by the faintest movement that she was address- 
ing the men who were filing raggedly to the 

So the room was empty, save for the land- 
lady and her sewing, the staid, elderly villager 
to whom she was talking in the unbeautiful 
dialect, and the young serving-woman who was 
clearing away the plates and basins of the 
tramps and beggars. 

Then the villager also went. 

" Gute Nacht, Frau Seidl," to the landlady ; 
" Gute Nacht," at random, to me. 

So I looked at the newspaper. Then I 
asked the landlady for a cigarette, not knowing 
how else to begin. So she came to my table, 
and we talked. 

It pleased me to take upon myself a sort of 


romantic, wandering character ; she said my 
German was " schon *' ; a little goes a long 

So I asked her who were the men who 
had sat at the long table. She became rather 
stiff and curt. 

" They are the men looking for work," 
she said, as if the subject were disagreeable. 

" But why do they come here, so many ? '* 
I asked. 

Then she told me that they were going out 
of the country : this was almost the last village 
of the border : that the reheving officer in 
each village was empowered to give to every 
vagrant a ticket entitling the holder to an 
evening meal, bed, and bread in the morning, 
at a certain inn. This was the inn for the 
vagrants coming to this village. The landlady 
received fourpence per head, I believe it was, 
for each of these wanderers. 

" Little enough," I said. 

** Nothing," she replied. 

She did not like the subject at all. Only 
her respect for me made her answer. 

** Bettler, Lumpen, und Taugenichtse! " I 
said cheerfully. 



** And men who are out of work, and are 
going back to their own parish," she said stiffly. 

So we talked a Uttle, and I too went to bed. 

" Gute Nacht, Frau Wirtin." 

" Gute Nacht, mein Herr." 

So I went up more and more stone stairs, 
attended by the young woman. It was a 
great, lofty, old deserted house, with many 
drab doors. 

At last, in the distant topmost floor, I had 
my bedroom, with two beds and bare floor and 
scant furniture. I looked down at the river 
far below, at the covered bridge, at the far 
lights on the hill above, opposite. Strange to 
be here in this lost, forgotten place, sleeping 
under the roof with tramps and beggars. I 
debated whether they would steal my boots if 
I put them out. But I risked it. The door- 
latch made a loud noise on the deserted land- 
ing, everywhere felt abandoned, forgotten. I 
wondered where the eight tramps and beggars 
were asleep. There was no way of securing 
the door. But somehow I felt that, if I were 
destined to be robbed or murdered, it would 
not be by tramps and beggars. So I blew out 
the candle and lay under the big feather bed, 


listening to the running and whispering of 
the mediaeval Rhine. 

And when I waked up again it was sunny, 
it was morning on the hill opposite, though 
the river deep below ran in shadow. 

The tramps and beggars were all gone : 
they must be cleared out by seven o'clock in 
the morning. So I had the inn to myself, I, 
and the landlady, and the serving-woman. 
Everywhere was very clean, full of the German 
morning energy and brightness, which is so 
different from the Latin morning. The Italians 
are dead and torpid first thing, the Germans 
are energetic and cheerful. 

It was cheerful in the sunny morning, 
looking down on the swift river, the covered, 
picturesque bridge, the bank and the hill 
opposite. Then down the curving road of 
the facing hill the Swiss cavalry came riding, 
men in blue uniforms. I went out to watch 
them. They came thundering romantically 
through the dark cavern of the roofed-in 
bridge, and they dismounted at the entrance 
to the village. There was a fresh morning- 
cheerful newness everywhere, in the arrival 
of the troops, in the welcome of the villagers. 


The Swiss do not look very military, 
neither in accoutrement nor in bearing. This 
little squad of cavalry seemed more like a 
party of common men riding out on some 
business of their own than like an army. They 
were very republican and very free. The 
officer who command °:d them was one of 
themselves, his authority was by consent. 

It was all very pleasant and genuine ; there 
was a sense of ease and peacefulness, quite 
different from the mechanical, slightly sullen 
manoeuvring of the Germans. 

The village baker and his assistant came 
hot and floury from the bakehouse, bearing 
between them a great basket of fresh bread. 
The cavalry were all dismounted by the 
bridge-head, eating and drinking like business 
men. Villagers came to greet their friends : 
one soldier kissed his father, who came wearing 
a leathern apron. The school bell tang-tang- 
tanged from above, school children merged 
timidly through the grouped horses, up the 
narrow street, passing unwillingly with their 
books. The river ran swiftly, the soldiers, 
very haphazard and slack in uniform, real 
shack-bags, chewed their bread in large mouth- 


fuls ; the young lieutenant, who seemed to be 
an officer only by consent of the men, stood 
apart by the bridge-head, gravely. They 
were all serious and self-contented, very un- 
glamorous. It was like a business excursion 
on horseback, harmless and uninspiring. The 
uniforms were almost ludicrous, so ill-fitting 
and casual. 

So I shouldered my own pack and set off, 
through the bridge over the Rhine, and up the 
hill opposite. 

There is something very dead about this 
country. I remember I picked apples from 
the grass by the roadside, and some were very 
sweet. But for the rest, there was mile after 
mile of dead, uninspired country — uninspired, 
so neutral and ordinary that it was almost 

One gets this feeling always in Switzerland, 
except high up : this feeling of average, of 
utter soulless ordinariness, something in- 
tolerable. Mile after mile, to Zurich, it was 
just the same. It was just the same in the 
tram-car going into Zurich ; it was just the 
same in the town, in the shops, in the restau- 
rant. All was the utmost level of ordinariness 


and well-being, but so ordinary that it was 
like a blight. All the picturesqueness of the 
town is as nothing, it is like a most ordinary, 
average, usual person in an old costume. The 
place was soul-killing. 

So after two hours' rest, eating in a res- 
taurant, wandering by the quay and through 
the market, and sitting on a seat by the lake, 
I found a steamer that would take me away. 
That is how I always feel in Switzerland : the 
only possible living sensation is the sensation 
of relief in going away, always going away. 
The horrible average ordinariness of it all, 
something utterly without flower or soul or 
transcendence, the horrible vigorous ordinari- 
ness, is too much. 

So I went on a steamer down the long lake, 
surrounded by low grey hills. It was Saturday 
afternoon. A thin rain came on. I thought 
I would rather be in fiery Hell than in this 
dead level of average life. 

I landed somewhere on the right bank, 
about three-quarters of the way down the lake. 
It was almost dark. Yet I must walk away. 
I climbed a long hill from the lake, came to 
the crest, looked down the darkness of the 


valley, and descended into the deep gloom, 
down into a soulless village. 

But it was eight o'clock, and I had had 
enough. One might as well sleep. I found 
the "Gasthaus zur Post." 

It was a small, very rough inn, having only 
one common room, with bare tables, and a 
short, stout, grim, rather surly landlady, and 
a landlord whose hair stood up on end, and 
who was trembling on the edge of delirium 

They could only give me boiled ham : so 
I ate boiled ham and drank beer, and tried to 
digest the utter cold materialism of Switzerland. 

As I sat with my back to the wall, staring 
blankly at the trembling landlord, who was 
ready at any moment to foam at the mouth, and 
at the dour landlady, who was quite capable 
of keeping him in order, there came in one of 
those dark, showy Italian girls with a man. 
She wore a blouse and skirt, and no hat. Her 
hair was perfectly dressed. It was really 
Italy. The man was soft, dark, he would get 
stout later, trapu^ he would have somewhat 
the figure of Caruso. But as yet he was soft, 
sensuous, young, handsome. 


They sat at the long side-table with their 
beer, and created another country at once 
within the room. Another Italian came, fair 
and fat and slow, one from the Venetian pro- 
vince ; then another, a little thin young man, 
who might have been a Swiss save for his 
vivid movement. 

This last was the first to speak to the 
Germans. The others had just said " Bier." 
But the little new-comer entered into a con- 
versation with the landlady. 

At last there were six Italians sitting talking 
loudly and warmly at the side- table. The 
slow, cold German-Swiss at the other tables 
looked at them occasionally. The landlord, 
with his crazed, stretched eyes, glared at them 
with hatred. But they fetched their beer 
from the bar with easy familiarity, and sat at 
their table, creating a bonfire of life in the 
callousness of the inn. 

At last they finished their beer and trooped 
off down the passage. The room was pain- 
fully empty. I did not know what to do. 

Then I heard the landlord yelling and 
screeching and snarling from the kitchen at 
the back, for all the world like a mad dog. 


But the Swiss Saturday evening customers 
at the other tables smoked on and talked in 
their ugly dialect, without trouble. Then the 
landlady came in, and soon after the landlord, 
he collarless, with his waistcoat unbuttoned, 
showing his loose throat, and accentuating 
his round pot-belly. His limbs were thin 
and feverish, the skin of his face hung loose, 
his eyes were glaring, his hands trembled. 
Then he sat down to talk to a crony. His 
terrible appearance was a fiasco ; nobody 
heeded him at all, only the landlady was surly. 

From the back came loud noises of pleasure 
and excitement and banging about. When 
the room door was opened I could see down 
the dark passage opposite another lighted door. 
Then the fat, fair Italian came in for more 

" What is all the noise ? " I asked the 
landlady at last. 

" It is the Italians,'* she said. 

" What are they doing ? " 

" They are doing a play." 

" Where ? " 

She jerked her head: " In the room at 
the back.'* 



** Can I go and look at them ? ** 

" I should think so." 

The landlord glaringly watched me go out. 
I went down the stone passage and found 
a great, half-lighted room that might be used 
to hold meetings, with forms piled at the side. 
At one end was a raised platform or stage. 
And on this stage was a table and a lamp, and 
the Italians grouped round the light, gesticu- 
lating and laughing. Their beer mugs were 
on the table and on the floor of the stage ; 
the little sharp youth was intently looking 
over some papers, the others were bending 
over the table with him. 

They looked up as I entered from the 
distance, looked at me in the distant twilight 
of the dusky room, as if I were an intruder, 
as if I should go away when I had seen them. 
But I said in German : 

" May I look .? " 

They were still unwilling to see or to 
hear me. 

** What do you say ? " the small one asked 
in reply. 

The others stood and watched, slightly at 
bay, like suspicious animals. 


** If I might come and look," I said in 
German ; then, feeling very uncomfortable, 
in Italian : " You are doing a drama, the 
landlady told me." 

The big empty room was behind me, dark, 
the little company of Italians stood above me 
in the light of the lamp which was on the 
table. They all watched with unseeing, un- 
willing looks : I was merely an intrusion. 

"' We are only learning it," said the small 

They wanted me to go away. But I wanted 
to stay. 

" May I listen ? " I said. " I don't want to 
stay in there." And I indicated, with a 
movement of the head, the inn-room beyond. 

" Yes," said the young intelligent man. 
** But we are only reading our parts." 

They had all become more friendly to me, 
they accepted me. 

" You are a German ? " asked one youth. 

" No— English." 

** English ? But do you live in Switzer- 
land ? " 

** No — I am walking to Italy.*' 

" On foot ? " 

241 R 


They looked with wakened eyes, 

" Yes." 

So I told them about my journey. They 
were puzzled. They did not quite understand 
why I wanted to walk. But they were de- 
lighted with the idea of going to Lugano and 
Como and then to Milan. 

" Where do you come from ? '* I asked 

They were all from the villages between 
Verona and Venice. They had seen the 
Garda. I told them of my living there. 

** Those peasants of the mountains," they 
said at once, " they are people of little educa- 
tion. Rather wild folk." 

And they spoke with good-humoured 

I thought of Paolo, and II Duro, and the 
Signor Pietro, our padrone, and I resented 
these factory-hands for criticising them. 

So I sat on the edge of the stage whilst 
they rehearsed their parts. The little thin 
intelligent fellow, Giuseppino, was the leader. 
The others read their parts in the laborious, 
disjointed fashion of the peasant, who can only 
see one word at a time, and has then to put 



the words together, afterwards, to make sense. 
The play was an amateur melodrama, printed 
in little penny booklets, for carnival pro- 
duction. This was only the second reading 
they had given it, and the handsome, dark 
fellow, who was roused and displaying himself 
before the gid, a hard, erect piece of callous- 
ness, laughed and flushed and stumbled, and 
understood nothing till it was transferred into 
him direct through Giuseppino. The fat, 
fair, slow man was more conscientious. He 
laboured through his part. The other two 
men were in the background more or 

The most confidential was the fat, fair 
slow man, who was called Alberto. His part 
was not very important, so he could sit by me 
and talk to me. 

He said they were all workers in the factory 
—silk, I think it was — in the village. They 
were a whole colony of Italians, thirty or more 
families. They had all come at different 

Giuseppino had been longest in the village. 
He had come when he was eleven, with his 
parents, and had attended the Swiss school. 


So he spoke perfect German. He was a clever 
man, was married, and had two children. 

He himself, Alberto, had been seven years 
in the valley ; the girl, la Maddelena, had 
been here ten years ; the dark man, Alfredo, 
who was flushed with excitement of her, had 
been in the village about nine years — he alone 
of all the men was not married. 

The others had all married Italian wives, 
and they lived in the great dwelling whose 
windows shone yellow by the rattling factory. 
They lived entirely among themselves ; none of 
them could speak German, more than a few 
words, except the Giuseppino, who was like a 
native here. 

It was very strange being among these 
Italians exiled in Switzerland. Alfredo, the 
dark one, the unmarried, was in the old tradi- 
tion. Yet even he was curiously subject to 
a ne\Y purpose, as if there were some greater 
new will that included him, sensuous, mindless 
as he was. He seemed to give his consent to 
something beyond himself. In this he was 
different from II Duro, in that he had put 
himself under the control of the outside 




It was strange to watch them on the stage, 
the Italians all lambent, soft, warm, sensuous, 
yet moving subject round Giuseppino, who 
was always quiet, always ready, always im- 
personal. There was a look of purpose, 
almost of devotion on his face, that singled 
him out and made him seem the one stable, 
eternal being among them. They quarrelled, 
and he let them quarrel up to a certain point ; 
then he called them back. He let them do 
as they liked so long as they adhered 
more or less to the central purpose, so long 
as they got on in some measure with the 

All the while they were drinking beer and 
smoking cigarettes. The Alberto was bar- 
man : he went out continually with the glasses. 
The Maddelena had a small glass. In the 
lamplight of the stage the little party read and 
smoked and practised, exposed to the empty 
darkness of the big room. Queer and isolated 
it seemed, a tiny, pathetic magic-land far away 
from the barrenness of Switzerland. I could 
believe in the old fairy-tales where, when the 
rock was opened, a magic underworld was 



The Alfredo, flushed, roused, handsome, 
but very soft and enveloping in his heat, 
laughed and threw himself into his pose, 
laughed foolishly, and then gave himself up 
to his part. The Alberto, slow and laborious, 
yet with a spark of vividness and natural 
intensity flashing through, replied and ges- 
ticulated; the Maddelena laid her head on 
the bosom of Alfredo, the other men started 
into action, and the play proceeded intently 
for half an hour. 

Quick, vivid, and sharp, the little Giusep- 
pino was always central. But he seemed 
almost invisible. When I think back, I can 
scarcely see him, I can only see the others, the 
lamplight on their faces and on their full 
gesticulating limbs. I can see the Maddelena, 
rather coarse and hard and repellent, declaiming 
her words in a loud, half-cynical voice, falling 
on the breast of the Alfredo, who was soft and 
sensuous, more like a female, flushing, with 
his mouth getting wet, his eyes moist, as he 
was roused. I can see the Alberto, slow, 
laboured, yet with a kind of pristine sim- 
plicity in all his movements, that touched his 
fat commonplaceness with beauty. Then there 


were the other two men, shy, inflammable, 
unintelligent, with their sudden Italian rushes 
of hot feeling. All their faces are distinct in 
the lamplight, all their bodies are palpable and 

But the face of the Giuseppino is like a pale 
luminousness, a sort of gleam among all the 
ruddy glow, his body is evanescent, like a 
shadow. And his being seemed to cast its 
influence over all the others, except perhaps 
the woman, who was hard and resistant. The 
other men seemed all overcast, mitigated, in 
part transfigured by the will of the little leader. 
But they were very soft stuff\, if inflammable. 

The young woman of the inn, niece of the 
landlady, came down and called out across the 

'* We will go away from here now," said 
the Giuseppino to me. " They close at eleven. 
But we have another inn in the next parish 
that is open all night. Come with us and drink 
some wine.'* 

" But,'* I said, " you would rather be 

No; they pressed me to go, they wanted 
me to go with them, they were eager, they 


wanted to entertain me. Alfredo, flushed, 
wet-mouthed, warm, protested I must drink 
wine, the real Italian red wine, from their own 
village at home. They would have no nay. 

So I told the landlady. She said I must 
be back by twelve o'clock. 

The night was very dark. Below the road 
the stream was rushing; there was a great 
factory on the other side of the water, making 
faint quivering lights of reflection, and one 
could see the working of machinery shadowy 
through the lighted windows. Near by was 
the tall tenement where the Italians lived. 

We went on through the straggling, raw 
village, deep beside the stream, then over the 
small bridge, and up the steep hill down which 
I had come earlier in the evening. 

So we arrived at the cafe. It was so difl^erent 
inside from the German inn, yet it was not 
like an Italian cafe either. It was brilliantly 
lighted, clean, new, and there were red-and- 
white cloths on the tables. The host was in 
the room, and his daughter, a beautiful red- 
haired girl. 

Greetings were exchanged with the quick, 
intimate directness of Italy. But there was 


another note also, a faint echo of reserve, as 
though they reserved themselves from the outer 
world, making a special inner community. 

Alfredo was hot : he took off his coat. We 
all sat freely at a long table, whilst the red- 
haired girl brought a quart of red wine. At 
other tables men were playing cards, with the 
odd Neapolitan cards. They too were talking 
Italian. It was a warm, ruddy bit of Italy 
within the cold darkness of Switzerland. 

" When you come to Italy,'* they said to 
me, ** salute it from us, salute the sun, and the 
earth, 1' Italia.'' 

So we drank in salute of Italy. They sent 
their greeting by me. 

" You know in Italy there is the sun, the 
sun," said Alfredo to me, profoundly moved, 
wet-mouthed, tipsy. 

I was reminded of Enrico Persevalli and his 
terrifying cry at the end of " Ghosts " : 

" II sole, il sole 1 " 

So we talked for a while of Italy. They 
had a pained tenderness for it, sad, reserved. 

" Don't you want to go back } " I said, 
pressing them to tell me definitely. " Won't 
you go back some time ? " 


" Yes/* they said, " we will go back." 

But they spoke reservedly, without freedom. 
We talked about Italy, about songs, and 
Carnival ; about the food, polenta, and salt. 
They laughed at my pretending to cut the 
slabs of polenta with a string : that rejoiced 
them all : it took them back to the Italian 
mezzo-giorno, the bells jangling in the cam- 
panile, the eating after the heavy work on the 

But they laughed with the slight pain and 
contempt and fondness which every man feels 
towards his past, when he has struggled away 
from that past, from the conditions which 
made it. 

They loved Italy passionately ; but they 
would not go back. All their blood, all their 
senses were Italian, needed the Italian sky, 
the speech, the sensuous Hfe. They could 
hardly live except through the senses. Their 
minds were not developed, mentally they 
were children, lovable, na'ive, almost fragile 
children. But sensually they were men : sen- 
sually they were accomplished. 

Yet a new tiny flower was struggling to 
open in them, the flower of a new spirit. The 


substratum of Italy has always been pagan, 
sensuous, the most potent symbol the sexual 
symbol. The child is really a non-Christian 
symbol : it is the symbol of man's triumph of 
eternal life in procreation. The worship of 
the Cross never really held good in Italy. The 
Christianity of Northern Europe has never 
had any place there. 

And now, when Northern Europe is turning 
back on its own Christianity, denying it all, 
the Italians are struggling with might and 
main against the sensuous spirit which still 
dominates them. When Northern Europe, 
whether it hates Nietzsche or not, is crying 
out for the Dionysic ecstasy, practising on 
itself the Dionysic ecstasy. Southern Europe 
is breaking free from Dionysos, from the 
triumphal affirmation of life over death, im- 
mortality through procreation. 

I could see these sons of Italy would never 
go back. Men like Paolo and II Duro broke 
away only to return. The dominance of the 
old form was too strong for them. Call it 
love of country or love of the village, cam- 
panilismo, or what not, it was the dominance 
of the old pagan form, the old affirmation of 


immortality through procreation, as opposed 
to the Christian affirmation of immortality 
through self-death and social love. 

But ** John " and these Italians in Switzer- 
land were a generation younger, and they would 
not go back, at least not to the old Italy. 
Suffer as they might, and they did suffer, 
wincing in every nerve and fibre from the cold 
material insentience of the northern countries 
and of America, still they would endure this for 
the sake of something else they wanted. They 
would suffer a death in the flesh, as " John " 
had suffered in fighting the street crowd, as 
these men suffered year after year cramped in 
their black gloomy cold Swiss valley, working 
in the factory. But there would came a new 
spirit out of it. 

Even Alfredo was submitted to the new 
process ; though he belonged entirely by nature 
to the sort of II Duro, he was purely sensuous 
and mindless. But under the influence of 
Giuseppino he was thrown down, as fallow 
to the new spirit that would come. 

And then, when the others were all partially 
tipsy, the Giuseppino began to talk to me. 
In him was a steady flame burning, burning, 


burning, a flame of the mind, of the spirit, 
something new and clear, something that held 
even the soft, sensuous Alfredo in submission, 
besides all the others, who had some little 
development of mind. 

** Sa signore,'* said the Giuseppino to me 
quiet, almost invisible or inaudible, as it 
seemed, like a spirit addressing me, ** V uomo 
non ha patria — a man has no country. What 
has the Italian Government to do with us ? 
What does a Government mean ? It makes us 
work, it takes part of our wages away from 
us, it makes us soldiers — and what for ? What 
is government for ? " 

" Have you been a soldier ?'' I interrupted 

He had not, none of them had : that was 
why they could not really go back to Italy, 
Now this was out ; this explained partly their 
curious reservation in speaking about their 
beloved country. They had forfeited parents 
as well as homeland. 

** What does the Government do ? It takes 
taxes ; it has an army and police, and it makes 
roads. But we could do without an army, 
and we could be our own police, and we could 


make our own roads. What is this Govern- 
ment ? Who wants it ? Only those who are 
unjust, and want to have advantage over 
somebody else. It is an instrument of in- 
justice and of wrong. 

" Why should we have a Government ? 
Here, in this village, there are thirty families 
of Italians. There is no government for 
them, no Italian Government. And we live 
together better than in Italy. We are richer 
and freer, we have no policemen, no poor laws. 
We help each other, and there are no poor. 

" Why are these Governments always doing 
what we don't want them to do .'' We should 
not be fighting in the Cirenaica if we were all 
Italians. It is the Government that does it. 
They talk and talk and do things with us : 
but we don't want them.*' 

The others, tipsy, sat round the table with 
the terrified gravity of children who are some- 
how responsible for things they do not under- 
stand. They stirred in their seats, turning 
aside, with gestures almost of pain, of im- 
prisonment. Only Alfredo, laying his hand on 
mine, was laughing, loosely, floridly. He would 
upset all the Government with a jerk of his 


well-built shoulder, and then he would have a 
spree — such a spree. He laughed wetly to me. 

The Giuseppino waited patiently during this 
tipsy confidence, but his pale clarity and beauty 
was something constant and star-like in com- 
parison with the flushed, soft handsomeness of 
the other. He waited patiently, looking at me. 

But I did not want him to go on : I did not 
want to answer. I could feel a new spirit in 
him, something strange and pure and slightly 
frightening. He wanted something which 
was beyond me. And my soul was somewhere 
in tears, crying helplessly like an infant in the 
night. I could not respond : I could not 
answer. He seemed to look at me, me, an 
Englishman, an educated man, for corrobora- 
tion. But I could not corroborate him. I 
knew the purity and new struggling towards 
birth of a true star-like spirit. But I could 
not confirm him in his utterance : my soul 
could not respond. I did not believe in the 
perfectibility of man. I did not believe in 
infinite harmony among men. And this was 
his star, this belief. 

It was nearly midnight. A Swiss came 
in and asked for beer. The Italians gathered 


round them a curious darkness of reserve. 
And then I must go. 

They shook hands with me warmly, truth- 
fully, putting a sort of implicit belief in me, 
as representative of some further knowledge. 
But there was a fixed, calm resolve over the 
face of the Giuseppino, a sort of steady faith, 
even in disappointment. He gave me a copy 
of a little Anarchist paper published in 
Geneva. V Anarchista^ I believe it was called. 
I glanced at it. It was in Italian, naive, 
simple, rather rhetorical. So they were all 
Anarchists, these Italians. 

I ran down the hill in the thick Swiss 
darkness to the little bridge, and along the 
uneven cobbled street. I did not want to 
think, I did not want to know. I wanted to 
arrest my activity, to keep it confined to the 
moment, to the adventure. 

When I came to the flight of stone steps 
which led up to the door of the inn, at the side 
I saw in the darkness two figures. They 
said a low good- night and parted; the girl 
began to knock at the door, the man dis- 
appeared. It was the niece of the landlady 
parting from her lover. 


We waited outside the locked door, at the 
top of the stone steps, in the darkness of 
midnight. The stream rustled below. Then 
came a shouting and an insane snarling within 
the passage ; the bolts were not withdrawn. 

** It is the gentleman, it is the strange 
gentleman," called the girl. 

Then came again the furious shouting 
snarls, and the landlord's mad voice : 

" Stop out, stop out there. The door 
won't be opened again." 

" The strange gentleman is here," repeated 
the girl. 

Then more movement was heard, and the 
door was suddenly opened, and the landlord 
rushed out upon us, wielding a broom. It 
was a strange sight, in the half-lighted passage. 
I stared blankly in the doorway. The landlord 
dropped the broom he was waving and collapsed 
as if by magic, looking at me, though he con- 
tinued to mutter madly, unintelligibly. The 
girl slipped past me, and the landlord snarled. 
Then he picked up the brush, at the same time 
crying : 

" You are late, the door was shut, it will 
not be opened. We shall have the police in 
257 s 


the house. We said twelve o'clock ; at twelve 
o'clock the door must be shut, and must not 
be opened again. If you are late you stay 
out " 

So he went snarling, his voice rising higher 
and higher, away into the kitchen. 

" You are coming to your room ? " the 
landlady said to me coldly. And she led me 

The room was over the road, clean, but 
rather ugly, with a large tin, that had once 
contained lard or Swiss -milk, to wash in. 
But the bed was good enough, which was all 
that mattered. 

I heard the landlord yelling, and there was 
a long and systematic thumping somewhere, 
thump, thump, thump, and banging. I won- 
dered where it was. I could not locate it at 
all, because my room lay beyond another 
large room : I had to go through a large room, 
by the foot of two beds, to get to my door ; 
so I could not quite tell where anything 

But I went to sleep whilst I was wondering. 

I woke in the morning and washed in the 
tin. I could see a few people in the street, 


walking in the Sunday morning leisure. It 
felt like Sunday in England, and I shrank from 
it. I could see none of the Italians. The 
factory stood there, raw and large and sombre, 
by the stream, and the drab-coloured stone 
tenements were close by. Otherwise the vil- 
lage was a straggling Swiss street, almost 

The landlord was quiet and reasonable, 
even friendly, in the morning. He wanted 
to talk to me : where had I bought my boots, 
was his first question. I told him in Munich. 
And how much had they cost ? I told him 
twenty-eight marks. He was much impressed 
by them : such good boots, of such soft, 
strong, beautiful leather ; he had not seen such 
boots for a long time. 

Then I knew it was he who had cleaned 
my boots. I could see him fingering them 
and wondering over them. I rather liked him, 
I could see he had had imagination once, and 
a certain fineness of nature. Now he was 
corrupted with drink, too far gone to be even 
a human being. I hated the village. 

They set bread and butter and a piece 
of cheese weighing about five pounds, and 


large, fresh, sweet cakes for breakfast. I 
ate and was thankful : the food was good. 

A couple of village youths came in, in 
their Sunday clothes. They had the Sunday 
stiffness. It reminded me of the stiffness and 
curious self-consciousness that comes over 
life in England on a Sunday. But the land- 
lord sat with his waistcoat hanging open over 
his shirt, pot-bellied, his ruined face leaning 
forward, talking, always talking, wanting to 

So in a few minutes I was out on the road 
again, thanking God for the blessing of a road 
that belongs to no man, and travels away from 
all men. 

I did not want to see the Italians. Some- 
thing had got tied up in me, and I could not 
bear to see them again. I liked them so 
much ; but, for some reason or other, my mind 
stopped like clockwork if I wanted to think 
of them and of what their lives would be, 
their future. It was as if some curious nega- 
tive magnetism arrested my mind, prevented 
it from working, the moment I turned it 
towards these Italians. 

I do not know why it was. But I could 


never write to them, or think of them, or even 
read the paper they gave me, though it lay in 
my drawer for months, in Italy, and I often 
glanced over six lines of it. And often, often 
my mind went back to the group, the play 
they were rehearsing, the wine in the pleasant 
cafe, and the night. But the moment my 
memory touched them, my whole soul stopped 
and was null ; I could not go on. Even now 
I cannot really consider them in thought. I 
shrink involuntarily away. I do not know 
why this is. 




When one walks, one must travel west or 
south. If one turn northward or eastward 
it is like walking down a cul-de-sac^ to the 
blind end. 

So it has been since the Crusaders came 
home satiated, and the Renaissance saw the 
western sky as an archway into the future. 
So it is still. We must go westwards and 

It is a sad and gloomy thing to travel even 
from Italy into France. But it is a joyful 
thing to walk south to Italy, south and west. 
It is so. And there is a certain exaltation in 
the thought of going west, even to Cornwall, 
to Ireland. It is as if the magnetic poles were 
south-west and north-east, for our spirits, 
with the south-west, under the sunset, as the 
positive pole. So whilst I walk through 
Switzerland, though it is a valley of gloom 


and depression, a light seems to flash out under 
every footstep, with the joy of progression. 

It was Sunday morning when I left the 
valley where the Italians lived. I went quickly 
over the stream, heading for Lucerne. It was 
a good thing to be out of doors, with one*s 
pack on one's back, climbing uphill. But 
the trees were thick by the roadside ; I was 
not yet free. It was Sunday morning, very 

In two hours I was at the top of the hill, 
looking out over the intervening valley at 
the long lake of Zurich, spread there beyond 
with its girdle of low hills, like a relief-map. 
I could not bear to look at it, it was so small 
and unreal. I had a feeling as if it were false, 
a large relief- map that I was looking down 
upon, and which I wanted to smash. It 
seemed to intervene between me and some 
reality. I could not believe that that was 
the real world. It was a figment, a fabrication, 
like a dull landscape painted on a wall, to hide 
the real landscape. 

So I went on, over to the other side of the 
hill, and I looked out again. Again there 
were the smoky-looking hills and the lake like 


a piece of looking-glass. But the hills were 
higher : that big one was the Rigi. I set 
off down the hill. 

There was fat agricultural land and several 
villages. And church was over. The church- 
goers were all coming home: men in black 
broadcloth and old chimney-pot silk hats, 
carrying their umbrellas ; women in ugly 
dresses, carrying books and umbrellas. The 
streets were dotted with these black-clothed 
men and stiff women, all reduced to a Sunday 
nullity. I hated it. It reminded me of that 
which I knew in my boyhood, that stiff, null 
** propriety " which used to come over us, like 
a sort of deliberate and self-inflicted cramp, 
on Sundays. I hated these elders in black 
broadcloth, with their neutral faces, going 
home piously to their Sunday dinners. I 
hated the feeling of these villages, comfortable, 
well-to-do, clean, and proper. 

And my boot was chafing two of my toes. 
That always happens. I had come down to 
a wide, shallow valley-bed, marshy. So about 
a mile out of the village I sat down by a stone 
bridge, by a stream, and tore up my hand- 
kerchief, and bound up the toes. And as I 


sat binding my toes, two of the elders in black, 
with umbrellas under their arms, approached 
from the direction of the village. 

They made me so furious, I had to hasten 
to fasten my boot, to hurry on again, before 
they should come near me. I could not 
bear the way they walked and talked, so 
crambling and material and mealy-mouthed. 

Then it did actually begin to rain. I 
was just going down a short hill. So I sat 
under a bush and watched the trees drip. I 
was so glad to be there, homeless, without 
place or belonging, crouching under the 
leaves in the copse by the road, that I felt I 
had, like the meek, inherited the earth. Some 
men went by, with their coat-collars turned up, 
and the rain making still blacker their black 
broadcloth shoulders. They did not see me. 
I was as safe and separate as a ghost. So I 
ate the remains of my food that I had bought 
in Zurich, and waited for the rain. 

Later, in the wet Sunday afternoon, I went 
on to the little lake, past many inert, neutral, 
material people, down an ugly road where 
trams ran. The blight of Sunday was almost 
intolerable near the town. 


So on I went, by the side of the steamy, 
reedy lake, walking the length of it. Then 
suddenly I went in to a little villa by the water 
for tea. In Switzerland every house is a villa. 

But this villa was kept by two old ladies 
and a delicate dog, who must not get his feet 
wet. I was very happy there. I had good 
jam and strange honey-cakes for tea, that I 
liked, and the little old ladies pattered round 
in a great stir, always whirling like two dry 
leaves after the restless dog. 

" Why must he not go out .-^ ** I said. 

" Because it is wet,'* they answered, ** and 
he coughs and sneezes." 

" Without a handkerchief, that is not 
angenehm^'^ I said. 

So we became bosom friends. 

" You are Austrian } '* they said to me. 

I said I was from Graz ; that my father 
was a doctor in Graz, and that I was walking 
for my pleasure through the countries of 

I said this because I knew a doctor from 
Graz who was always wandering about, and 
because I did not want to be myself, an English- 
man, to these two old ladies. I wanted to be 


something else. So we exchanged con- 

They told me, in their queer, old, toothless 
fashion, about their visitors, a man who used 
to fish all day, every day for three weeks, fish 
every hour of the day, though many a day he 
caught nothing — nothing at all — still he fished 
from the boat ; and so on, such trivialities. 
Then they told me of a third sister who had 
died, a third little old lady. One could feel 
the gap in the house. They cried ; and I, 
being an Austrian from Graz, to my astonish- 
ment felt my tears slip over on to the table. 
I also was sorry, and I would have kissed the 
little old ladies to comfort them. 

" Only in heaven it is warm, and it doesn't 
rain, and no one dies,** I said, looking at the 
wet leaves. 

Then I went away. I would have stayed 
the night at this house : I wanted to. But 
I had developed my Austrian character too 

So I went on to a detestable brutal inn in 

the town. And the next day I climbed over 

the back of the detestable Rigi, with its vile 

hotel, to come to Lucerne. There, on the 



Rigi, I met a lost young Frenchman who could 
speak no German, and who said he could not 
find people to speak French. So we sat on 
a stone and became close friends, and I pro- 
mised faithfully to go and visit him in his 
barracks in Algiers : I was to sail from Naples 
to Algiers. He wrote me the address on 
his card, and told me he had friends in the 
regiment, to whom I should be introduced, 
and we could have a good time, if I would stay 
a week or two, down there in Algiers. 

How much more real Algiers was than the 
rock on the Rigi where we sat, or the lake 
beneath, or the mountains beyond. Algiers 
is very real, though I have never seen it, and 
my friend is my friend for ever, though I 
have lost his card and forgotten his name. 
He was a Government clerk from Lyons, 
making this his first foreign tour before he 
began his military service. He showed me 
his " circular excursion ticket." Then at 
last we parted, for he must get to the top of 
the Rigi, and I must get to the bottom. 

Lucerne and its lake were as irritating as 
ever — like the wrapper round milk chocolate. 
I could not sleep even one night there : I 


took the steamer down the lake, to the very 
last station. There I found a good German 
inn, and was happy. 

There was a tall thin young man, whose 
face was red and inflamed from the sun. I 
thought he was a German tourist. He had 
just come in ; and he was eating bread and 
milk. He and I were alone in the eating- 
room. He was looking at an illustrated paper. 

" Does the steamer stop here all night ? " 
I asked him in German, hearing the boat 
bustling and blowing her steam on the water 
outside, and glancing round at her lights, red 
and white, in the pitch darkness. 

He only shook his head over his bread and 
milk, and did not lift his face. 

" Are you English, then ? " I said. 

No one but an Englishman would have 
hidden his face in a bowl of milk, and have 
shaken his red ears in such painful confusion. 

" Yes," he said, " I am." 

And I started almost out of my skin at the 
unexpected London accent. It was as if one 
suddenly found oneself in the Tube. 

"So am I," I said. " Where have you 
come from ? " 



Then he began, like a general explaining 
his plans, to tell me. He had walked round 
over the Furka Pass, had been on foot four 
or five days. He had walked tremendously. 
Knowing no German, and nothing of the 
mountains, he had set off alone on this tour : 
he had a fortnight's holiday. So he had come 
over the Rhone Glacier across the Furka and 
down from Andermatt to the Lake. On this 
last day he had walked about thirty mountain 

" But weren't you tired ? " I said, aghast. 

He was. Under the inflamed redness of 
his sun- and wind- and snow-burned face he 
was sick with fatigue. He had done over a 
hundred miles in the last four days. 

" Did you enjoy it .'^ " I asked. 

" Oh yes. I wanted to do it all." He 
wanted to do it, and he had done it. But 
God knows what he wanted to do it for. He 
had now one day at Lucerne, one day at Inter- 
laken and Berne, then London. 

I was sorry for him in my soul, he was so 
cruelly tired, so perishingly victorious. 

" Why did you do so much ? " I said. 
" Why did you come on foot all down the 
273 T 


valley when you could have taken the train ? 
Was it worth it ? *' 

** I think so," he said. 

Yet he was sick with fatigue and over- 
exhaustion. His eyes were quite dark, sight- 
less : he seemed to have lost the power of see- 
ing, to be virtually blind. He hung his head 
forward when he had to write a post card, as 
if he felt his way. But he turned his post card 
so that I should not see to whom it was 
addressed ; not that I was interested ; only I 
noticed his little, cautious, English movement 
of privacy. 

" What time will you be going on ? " I 

" When is the first steamer ? " he said, 
and he turned out a guide-book with a 
time - table. He would leave at about 

" But why so early ? ** I said to him. 

He must be in Lucerne at a certain hour, 
and at Interlaken in the evening. 

** I suppose you will rest when you get to 
London ? " I said. 

He looked at me quickly, reservedly. 

I was drinking beer : I asked him wouldn't 


he have something. He thought a moment, 
then said he would have another glass of hot 
milk. The landlord came — " And bread ? " 
he asked. 

The Englishman refused. He could not 
eat, really. Also he was poor ; he had to 
husband his money. The landlord brought the 
milk and asked me, when would the gentleman 
want to go away. So I made arrangements 
between the landlord and the stranger. But 
the Englishman was slightly uncomfortable at 
my intervention. He did not like me to 
know what he would have for breakfast. 

I could feel so well the machine that had 
him in its grip. He slaved for a year, mechan- 
ically, in London, riding in the Tube, work- 
ing in the office. Then for a fortnight he was 
let free. So he rushed to Switzerland, with 
a tour planned out, and with just enough 
money to see him through, and to buy 
presents at Interlaken : bits of the edelweiss 
pottery : I could see him going home with 

So he arrived, and with amazing, pathetic 
courage set forth on foot in a strange land, 
to face strange landlords, with no language 


but English at his command, and his purse 
definitely limited. Yet he wanted to go among 
the mountains, to cross a glacier. So he had 
walked on and on, like one possessed, ever 
forward. His name might have been 
Excelsior, indeed. 

But then, when he reached his Furka, only 
to walk along the ridge and to descend on the 
same side! My God, it was killing to the 
soul. And here he was, down again from the 
mountains, beginning his journey home again: 
steamer and train and steamer and train and 
Tube, till he was back in the machine. 

It hadn't let him go, and he knew it. Hence 
his cruel self-torture of fatigue, his cruel 
exercise of courage. He who hung his head 
in his milk in torment when I asked him 
a question in German, what courage had he 
not needed to take this his very first trip 
out of England, alone, on foot ! 

His eyes were dark and deep with un- 
fathomable courage. Yet he was going back 
in the morning. He was going back. All 
he had courage for was to go back. He would 
go back, though he died by inches. Why 
not ? It was killing him, it was like living 


loaded with irons. But he had the courage 
to submit, to die that way, since it was the way 
allotted to him. 

The way he sank on the table in exhaustion, 
drinking his milk, his will, nevertheless, so 
perfect and unblemished, triumphant, though 
his body was broken and in anguish, was 
almost too much to bear. My heart was 
wrung for my countryman, wrung till it bled. 

I could not bear to understand my country- 
man, a man who worked for his living, as I 
had worked, as nearly all my countrymen 
work. He would not give in. On his holiday 
he would walk, to fulfil his purpose, walk on ; 
no matter how cruel the effort were, he would 
not rest, he would not relinquish his purpose 
nor abate his will, not by one jot or tittle. His 
body must pay whatever his will demanded, 
though it were torture. 

It all seemed to me so foolish. I was 
almost in tears. He went to bed. I walked 
by the dark lake, and talked to the girl in the 
inn. She was a pleasant girl : it was a pleasant 
inn, a homely place. One could be happy 

In the morning it was sunny, the lake was 


blue. By night I should be nearly at the crest 
of my journey. I was glad. 

The Englishman had gone. I looked for 
his name in the book. It was written in a 
fair, clerkly hand. He lived at Streatham. 
Suddenly I hated him. The dogged fool, 
to keep his nose on the grindstone like 
that. What was all his courage but the very 
tip-top of cowardice ? What a vile nature — 
almost Sadish, proud, like the infamous Red 
Indians, of being able to stand torture. 

The landlord came to talk to me. He was 
fat and comfortable and too respectful. But 
I had to tell him all the Englishman had done, 
in the way of a holiday, just to shame his own 
fat, ponderous, inn-keeper*s luxuriousness that 
was too gross. Then all I got out of his 
enormous comfortableness was : 

** Yes, that's a very long step to take." 

So I set off myself, up the valley between 
the close, snow-topped mountains, whose white 
gleamed above me as I crawled, small as an 
insect, along the dark, cold valley below. 

There had been a cattle fair earlier in the 
morning, so troops of cattle were roving 
down the road, some with bells tang-tanging, 


all with soft faces and startled eyes and a sudden 
swerving of horns. The grass was very green 
by the roads and by the streams ; the shadows 
of the mountain slopes were very dark on 
either hand overhead, and the sky with snowy 
flanks and tips was high up. 

Here, away from the world, the villages 
were quiet and obscure — left behind. They 
had the same fascinating atmosphere of being 
forgotten, left out of the world, that old English 
villages have. And buying apples and cheese 
and bread in a little shop that sold everything 
and smelled of everything, I felt at home 

But climbing gradually higher, mile after 
mile, always between the shadows of the high 
mountains, I was glad I did not live in the 
Alps. The villages on the slopes, the people 
there, seemed as if they must gradually, bit by 
bit, slide down and tumble to the water-course, 
and be rolled on away, away to the sea. 
Straggling, haphazard little villages ledged on 
the slope, high up, beside their wet, green, 
hanging meadows, with pine trees behind 
and the valley bottom far below, and rocks 
right above, on both sides, seemed like little 


temporary squattings of outcast people. It 
seemed impossible that they should persist 
there, with great shadows wielded over them, 
like a menace, and gleams of brief sunshine, 
like a window. There was a sense of moment- 
ariness and expectation. It seemed as though 
some dramatic upheaval must take place, the 
mountains fall down into their own shadows. 
The valley beds were like deep graves, the 
sides of the mountains like the collapsing 
walls of a grave. The very mountain-tops 
above, bright with transcendent snow, seemed 
like death, eternal death. 

There, it seemed, in the glamorous snow, 
was the source of death, which fell down in 
great waves of shadow and rock, rushing to 
the level earth. And all the people of the 
mountains, on the slopes, in the valleys, seemed 
to live upon this great, rushing wave of death, 
of breaking-down, of destruction. 

The very pure source of breaking-down, 
decomposition, the very quick of cold death, 
is the snowy mountain-peak above. There, 
eternally, goes on the white foregathering of 
the crystals, out of the deathly cold of the 
heavens ; this is the static nucleus where death 


meets life in its elementality. And thence, 
from their white, radiant nucleus of death in 
life, flows the great flux downwards, towards 
life and warmth. And we below, we cannot 
think of the flux upwards, that flows from the 
needle-point of snow to the unutterable cold 
and death. 

The people under the mountains, they seem 
to live in the flux of death, the last, strange, 
overshadowed units of life. Big shadows 
wave over them, there is the eternal noise of 
water falling icily downwards from the source 
of death overhead. 

And the people under the shadows, dwelling 
in the tang of snow and the noise of icy water, 
seem dark, almost sordid, brutal. There is 
no flowering or coming to flower, only this 
persistence, in the ice-touched air, of repro- 
ductive life. 

But it is difficult to get a sense of a native 
population. Everywhere are the hotels and 
the foreigners, the parasitism. Yet there is, 
unseen, this overshadowed, overhung, sordid 
mountain population, ledged on the slopes and 
in the crevices. In the wider valleys there is 
still a sense of cowering among the people. 


But they catch a new tone from their contact 
with the foreigners. And in the towns are 
nothing but tradespeople. 

So I cHmbed slowly up, for a whole day, 
first along the high-road, sometimes above and 
sometimes below the twisting, serpentine rail- 
way, then afterwards along a path on the side 
of the hill — a path that went through the crew- 
yards of isolated farms and even through the 
garden of a village priest. The priest was 
decorating an archway. He stood on a chair in 
the sunshine, reaching up with a garland, whilst 
the serving-woman stood below, talking loudly. 

The valley here seemed wider, the great 
flanks of the mountains gave place, the peaks 
above were further back. So one was happier. 
I was pleased as I sat by the thin track of single 
flat stones that dropped swiftly downhill. 

At the bottom was a little town with a 
factory or quarry, or a foundry, some place 
with long, smoking chimneys ; which made 
me feel quite at home among the mountains. 

It is the hideous rawness of the world of 

men, the horrible, desolating harshness of the 

advance of the industrial world upon the 

world of nature, that is so painful. It looks 



as though the industrial spread of mankind 
were a sort of dry disintegration advancing 
and advancing, a process of dry disintegration. 
If only we could learn to take thought for the 
whole world instead of for merely tiny bits of it. 

I went through the little, hideous, crude 
factory-settlement in the high valley, where 
the eternal snows gleamed, past the enormous 
advertisements for chocolate and hotels, up 
the last steep slope of the pass to where the 
tunnel begins. Goschenen, the village at the 
mouth of the tunnel, is all railway sidings and 
haphazard villas for tourists, post cards, and 
touts and weedy carriages ; disorder and sterile 
chaos, high up. How should any one stay 
there 1 

I went on up the pass itself. There were 
various parties of visitors on the roads and 
tracks, people from towns incongruously walk- 
ing and driving. It was drawing on to even- 
ing. I climbed slowly, between the great 
cleft in the rock where are the big iron gates, 
through which the road winds, winds half-way 
down the narrow gulley of solid, living rock, 
the very throat of the path, where hangs a 
tablet in memory of many Russians killed. 


Emerging through the dark rocky throat 
of the pass I came to the upper world, the 
level upper world. It was evening, livid, 
cold. On either side spread the sort of moor- 
land of the wide pass-head. I drew near along 
the high-road, to Andermatt. 

Everywhere were soldiers moving about the 
livid, desolate waste of this upper world. I 
passed the barracks and the first villas for 
visitors. Darkness was coming on ; the strag- 
gling, inconclusive street of Andermatt looked 
as if it were some accident — houses, hotels, 
barracks, lodging-places tumbled at random 
as the caravan of civilisation crossed this high, 
cold, arid bridge of the European world. 

I bought two post cards and wrote them 
out of doors in the cold, livid twilight. Then 
I asked a soldier where was the post-office. 
He directed me. It was something like 
sending post cards from Skegness or Bognor, 
there in the post-office. 

I was trying to make myself agree to stay 
in Andermatt for the night. But I could not. 
The whole place was so terribly raw and flat 
and accidental, as if great pieces of furniture 
had tumbled out of a pantechnicon and lay 


discarded by the road. I hovered in the 
street, in the twilight, trying to make myself 
stay. I looked at the announcements of 
lodgings and boarding for visitors. It was no 
good. I could not go into one of these houses. 

So I passed on, through the old, low, broad- 
eaved houses that cringe down to the very 
street, out into the open again. The air was 
fierce and savage. On one side was a moor- 
land, level ; on the other a sweep of naked hill, 
curved concave, and sprinkled with snow. I 
could see how wonderful it would all be, under 
five or six feet of winter snow, ski-ing and 
tobogganing at Christmas. But it needed 
the snow. In the sum.mer there is to be seen 
nothing but the winter's broken detritus. 

The twilight deepened, though there was 
still the strange, glassy translucency of the 
snow-lit air. A fragment of moon was in the 
sky. A carriage-load of French tourists passed 
me. There was the loud noise of water, as 
ever, something eternal and maddening in its 
sound, like the sound of Time itself, rustling 
and rushing and wavering, but never for a 
second ceasing. The rushing of Time that 
continues throughout eternity, this is the sound 


of the icy streams of Switzerland, something 
that mocks and destroys our warm being. 

So I came, in the early darkness, to the 
little village with the broken castle that stands 
for ever frozen at the point where the track 
parts, one way continuing along the ridge to 
the Furka Pass, the other swerving over the 
hill to the left, over the Gotthardt. 

In this village I must stay. I saw a woman 
looking hastily, furtively from a doorway. 
I knew she was looking for visitors. I went 
on up the hilly street. There were only a few 
wooden houses and a gaily lighted wooden inn, 
where men were laughing, and strangers, men, 
standing talking loudly in the doorway. 

It was very difficult to go to a house this 
night. I did not want to approach any of 
them. I turned back to the house of the 
peering woman. She had looked hen-like 
and anxious. She would be glad of a visitor 
to help her pay her rent. 

It was a clean, pleasant wooden house, made 
to keep out the cold. That seemed its one 
function : to defend the inmates from the 
cold. It was furnished like a hut, just tables 
and chairs and bare wooden walls. One felt 


very close and secure in the room, as in a hut, 
shut away from the outer world. 

The hen-like woman came. 

** Can I have a bed,'* I said, ** for the 
night ? " 

" Abendessen, jal " she replied. ** Will 
you have soup and boiled beef and vege- 
tables ? " 

I said I would, so I sat down to wait, in the 
utter silence. I could scarcely hear the ice- 
stream, the silence seemed frozen, the house 
empty. The woman seemed to be flitting 
aimlessly, scurriedly, in reflex against the 
silence. One could almost touch the stillness 
as one could touch the walls, or the stove, or 
the table with white American oil-cloth. 

Suddenly she appeared again. 

" What will you drink ? " 

She watched my face anxiously, and her 
voice was pathetic, slightly pleading in its 

" Wine or beer ? " she said. 

I would not trust the coldness of beer. 

" A half of red wine,'* I said. 

I knew she was going to keep me an in- 
definite time. 



She appeared with the wine and bread. 

" Would you like omelette after the beef? " 
she asked. *' Omelette with cognac — I can 
make it very good." 

I knew I should be spending too much, 
but I said yes. After all, why should I not 
eat, after the long walk } 

So she left me again, whilst I sat in the 
utter isolation and stillness, eating bread and 
drinking the wine, which was good. And I 
listened for any sound : only the faint noise 
of the stream. And I wondered, Why am I 
here, on this ridge of the Alps, in the lamp-lit, 
wooden, close-shut room, alone } Why am 
I here } 

Yet somehow I was glad, I was happy 
even : such splendid silence and coldness and 
clean isolation. It was something eternal, 
unbroachable : I was free, in this heavy, ice- 
cold air, this upper world, alone. London, 
far away below, beyond, England, Germany, 
France — they were all so unreal in the night. 
It was a sort of grief that this continent all 
beneath was so unreal, false, non-existent in its 
activity. Out of the silence one looked down 
on it, and it seemed to have lost all importance, 


all significance. It was so big, yet it had no 
significance. The kingdoms of the world 
had no significance : what could one do but 
wander about ? 

The woman came with my soup. I asked 
her, did not many people come in the summer. 
But she was scared away, she did not answer, 
she went like a leaf in the wind. However, 
the soup was good and plentiful. 

She was a long time before she came with 
the next course. Then she put the tray on 
the table, and looking at me, then looking 
away, shrinking, she said : 

** You must excuse me if I don*t answer you 
— I don't hear well — I am rather deaf." 

I looked at her, and I winced also. She 
shrank in such simple pain from the fact of 
her defect. I wondered if she were bullied 
because of it, or only afraid lest visitors would 
dislike it. 

She put the dishes in order, set me my 
plate, quickly, nervously, and was gone again, 
like a scared chicken. Being tired, I wanted 
to weep over her, the nervous, timid hen, so 
frightened by her own deafness. The house 
was silent of her, empty. It was perhaps 
289 U 


her deafness which created this empty sound- 

When she came with the omelette, I said 
to her loudly : 

** That was very good, the soup and meat." 
So she quivered nervously, and said, " Thank 
you," and I managed to talk to her. She was 
like most deaf people, in that her terror of not 
hearing made her six times worse than she 
actually was. 

She spoke with a soft, strange accent, so 
I thought she was perhaps a foreigner. But 
when I asked her she misunderstood, and I 
had not the heart to correct her. I can only 
remember she said her house was always full 
in the winter, about Christmas-time. People 
came for the winter sport. There were two 
young English ladies who always came to her. 

She spoke of them warmly. Then, sud- 
denly afraid, she drifted off again. I ate the 
omelette with cognac, which was very good, 
then I looked in the street. It was very dark, 
with bright stars, and smelled of snow. Two 
village men went by. I was tired, I did not 
want to go to the inn. 

So I went to bed, in the silent, wooden 


house. I had a small bedroom, clean and 
wooden and very cold. Outside, the stream 
was rushing. I covered myself with a great 
depth of feather-bed, and looked at the stars, 
and the shadowy upper world, and went to 

In the morning I washed in the ice-cold 
water, and was glad to set out. An icy mist 
was over the noisy stream, there were a few 
meagre, shredded pine trees. I had breakfast 
and paid my bill : it was seven francs — more 
than I could afford ; but that did not matter, 
once I was out in the air. 

The sky was blue and perfect, it was a 
ringing morning, the village was very still. I 
went up the hill till I came to the sign-post. 
I looked down the direction of the Furka, 
and thought of my tired Englishman from 
Streatham, who would be on his way home. 
Thank God I need not go home : never, 
perhaps. I turned up the track to the left, 
to the Gothard. 

Standing looking round at the mountain- 
tops, at the village and the broken castle 
below me, at the scattered debris of Andermatt 
on the moor in the distance, I was jumping 


in my soul with delight. Should one ever 
go down to the lower world ? 

Then I saw another figure striding along, 
a youth with knee-breeches and Alpine hat 
and braces over his shirt, walking manfully, 
his coat slung in his Rucksack behind. I 
laughed, and waited. He came my way. 

** Are you going over the Gothard ? " I 

" Yes,^* he replied. " Are you also ? " 

" Yes," I said. " We will go together.*' 

So we set off, climbing a track up the 
heathy rocks. 

He was a pale, freckled town youth from 
Basel, seventeen years old. He was a clerk 
in a baggage-transport firm — Gondrand Fr^res, 
I believe. He had a week's holiday, in which 
time he was going to make a big circular 
walk, something like the Englishman's. But 
he was accustomed to this mountain walking : 
he belonged to a Sportverein. Manfully he 
marched in his thick hob-nailed boots, earnestly 
he scrambled up the rocks. 

We were in the crest of the pass. Broad 
snow-patched slopes came down from the pure 
sky; the defile was full of stones, all bare 


stones, enormous ones as big as a house, and 
small ones, pebbles. Through these the road 
wound in silence, through this upper, trans- 
cendent desolation, wherein was only the 
sound of the stream. Sky and snow-patched 
slopes, then the stony, rocky bed of the defile, 
full of morning sunshine : this was all. We 
were crossing in silence from the northern 
world to the southern. 

But he, Emil, was going to take the train 
back, through the tunnel, in the evening, to 
resume his circular walk at Goschenen. 

I, however, was going on, over the ridge 
of the world, from the north into the south. 
So I was glad. 

We climbed up the gradual incline for a 
long time. The slopes above became lower, 
they began to recede. The sky was very 
near, we were walking under the sky. 

Then the defile widened out, there was an 
open place before us, the very top of the pass. 
Also there were low barracks, and soldiers. 
We heard firing. Standing still, we saw on the 
slopes of snow, under the radiant blue heaven, 
tiny puffs of smoke, then some small black 
figures crossing the snow patch, then another 


rattle of rifle-fire, rattling dry and unnatural 
in the upper, skyey air, between the rocks. 

" Das ist schon," said my companion, in 
his simple admiration. 

" Hubsch," I said. 

" But that would be splendid, to be firing 
up there, manoeuvring up in the snow." 

And he began to tell me how hard a soldier's 
life was, how hard the soldier was drilled. 

" You don't look forward to it ? " I said. 

" Oh yes, I do. I want to be a soldier, 
I want to serve my time." 

** Why ? " I said. 

** For the exercise, the life, the drilling. 
One becomes strong." 

" Do all the Swiss want to serve their time 
in the army ? " I asked. 

** Yes — they all want to. It is good for 
every man, and it keeps us all together. Be- 
sides, it is only for a year. For a year it is 
very good. The Germans have three years — 
that is too long, that is bad." 

I told him how the soldiers in Bavaria 
hated the military service. 

*' Yes," he said, " that is true of Germans. 
The system is different. Ours is much better ; 


in Switzerland a man enjoys his time as a 
soldier. I want to go." 

So we watched the black dots of soldiers 
crawling over the high snow, listened to the 
unnatural dry rattle of guns, up there. 

Then we were aware of somebody whistling, 
of soldiers yelling down the road. We were 
to come on, along the level, over the bridge. 
So we marched quickly forward, away from 
the slopes, towards the hotel, once a monastery, 
that stood in the distance. The light was 
blue and clear on the reedy lakes of this upper 
place ; it was a strange desolation of water and 
bog and rocks and road, hedged by the snowy 
slopes round the rim, under the very sky. 

The soldier was yelling again. I could 
not tell what he said. 

** He says if we don't run we can't come 
at all,'' said Emil. 

" I won't run," I said. 

So we hurried forwards, over the bridge, 
where the soldier on guard was standing. 

" Do you want to be shot ? " he said 
angrily, as we came up. 

" No, thanks," I said. 

Emil was very serious. 



** How long should we have had to wait 
if we hadn't got through now ? " he asked 
the soldier, when we were safely out of 

" Till one o'clock,** was the reply. 

** Two hours 1 " said Emil, strangely elated. 
** We should have had to wait two hours before 
we could come on. He was riled that we 
didn't run," and he laughed with glee. 

So we marched over the level to the hotel. 
We called in for a glass of hot milk. I asked 
in German. But the maid, a pert hussy, 
elegant and superior, was French. She served 
us with great contempt, as two worthless 
creatures, poverty-stricken. It abashed poor 
Emil, but we managed to laugh at her. This 
made her very angry. In the smoking-room 
she raised up her voice in French : 

** Du lait chaud pour les chameaux." 

** Some hot milk for the camels, she says," 
I translated for Emil. He was covered with 
confusion and youthful anger. 

But I called to her, tapped the table and 
called : 

" Mademoiselle! " 

She appeared flouncingly in the doorway. 


** Encore du lait pour les chameaux," I said. 

And she whisked our glasses off the table, 
and flounced out without a word. 

But she would not come in again with the 
milk. A German girl brought it. We 
laughed, and she smiled primly. 

When we set forth again, Emil rolled up his 
sleeves and turned back his shirt from his neck 
and breast, to do the thing thoroughly. Besides, 
it was mid -day, and the sun was hot; and, 
with his bulky pack on his back, he suggested 
the camel of the French maid more than ever. 

We were on the downward slope. Only 
a short way from the hotel, and there was the 
drop, the great cleft in the mountains running 
down from this shallow pot among the peaks. 

The descent on the south side is much more 
precipitous and wonderful than the ascent 
from the north. On the south, the rocks are 
craggy and stupendous ; the little river falls 
headlong down ; it is not a stream, it is one 
broken, panting cascade far away in the gulley 
below, in the darkness. 

But on the slopes the sun pours in, the road 
winds down with its tail in its mouth, always 
in endless loops returning on itself. The 


mules that travel upward seem to be treading 
in a mill. 

Emil took the narrow tracks, and, like the 
water, we cascaded down, leaping from level 
to level, leaping, running, leaping, descending 
headlong, only resting now and again when 
we came down on to another level of the high- 

Having begun, we could not help ourselves, 
we were like two stones bouncing down. Emil 
was highly elated. He waved his thin, bare, 
white arms as he leapt, his chest grew pink with 
the exercise. Now he felt he was doing some- 
thing that became a member of his Sportverein. 
Down we went, jumping, running, britching. 

It was wonderful on this south side, so 
sunny, with feathery trees and deep black 
shadows. It reminded me of Goethe, of the 
romantic period : 

Kennst du das Land, wo die Citronen bluhen ? 

So we went tumbling down into the south, 
very swiftly, along with the tumbling stream. 
But it was very tiring. We went at a great 
pace down the gully, between the sheer rocks. 
Trees grew in the ledges high over our heads, 


trees grew down below. And ever we 

Till gradually the gully opened, then opened 
into a wide valley-head, and we saw Airolo 
away below us, the railway emerging from its 
hole, the whole valley like a cornucopia full of 

Poor Emil was tired, more tired than I was. 
And his big boots had hurt his feet in the 
descent. So, having come to the open valley- 
head, we went more gently. He had become 
rather quiet. 

The head of the valley had that half-tamed, 
ancient aspect that reminded me of the Romans. 
I could only expect the Roman legions to be 
encamped down there; and the white goats 
feeding on the bushes belonged to a Roman 

But no, we saw again the barracks of the 
Swiss soldiery, and again we were in the midst 
of rifle-fire and manoeuvres. But we went 
evenly, tired now, and hungry. We had 
nothing to eat. 

It is strange how different the sun-dried, 
ancient, southern slopes of the world are, 
from the northern slopes. It is as if the god 


Pan really had his home among these sun- 
bleached stones and tough, sun - dark trees. 
And one knows it all in one's blood, it is pure, 
sun-dried memory. So I was content, coming 
down into Airolo. 

We found the streets were Italian, the 
houses sunny outside and dark within, like 
Italy, there were laurels in the road. Poor 
Emil was a foreigner all at once. He rolled 
down his shirt sleeves and fastened his shirt- 
neck, put on his coat and collar, and became 
a foreigner in his soul, pale and strange. 

I saw a shop with vegetables and grapes, 
a real Italian shop, a dark cave. 

" Quanto costa V uva ? " were my first words 
in the south. 

" Sessanta al chilo,'* said the girl. 

And it was as pleasant as a drink of wine, 
the Italian. 

So Emil and I ate the sweet black grapes 
as we went to the station. 

He was very poor. We went into the third- 
class restaurant at the station. He ordered 
beer and bread and sausage ; I ordered soup 
and boiled beef and vegetables. 

They brought me a great quantity, so, 


whilst the girl was serving coffee-with-rum 
to the men at the bar, I took another spoon and 
knife and fork and plates for Emil, and we had 
two dinners from my one. When the girl — 
she was a woman of thirty-five — came back, 
she looked at us sharply. I smiled at her 
coaxingly ; so she gave a small, kindly smile in 

** Ja, dies ist reizend,** said Emil, sotto voce^ 
exulting. He was very shy. But we were 
curiously happy, in that railway restaurant. 

Then we sat very still, on the platform, 
and waited for the train. It was like Italy, 
pleasant and social to wait in the railway 
station, all the world easy and warm in its 
activity, with the sun shining. 

I decided to take a franc's worth of train- 
journey. So I chose my station. It was one 
franc twenty, third class. Then my train 
came, and Emil and I parted, he waving to 
me till I was out of sight. I was sorry he had 
to go back, he did so want to venture forth. 

So I slid for a dozen miles or more, sleepily, 
down the Ticino valley, sitting opposite two 
fat priests in their feminine black. 

When I got out at my station I felt for the 


first time ill at ease. Why was I getting out 
at this wayside place, on to the great, raw high- 
road ? I did not know. But I set off walking. 
It was nearly tea-time. 

Nothing in the world is more ghastly than 
these Italian roads, new, mechanical, belonging 
to a machine life. The old roads are wonder- 
ful, skilfully aiming their way. But these new 
great roads are desolating, more desolating 
than all the ruins in the world. 

I walked on and on, down the Ticino valley, 
towards Bellinzona. The valley was perhaps 
beautiful : I don't know. I can only remem- 
ber the road. It was broad and new, and it 
ran very often beside the railway. It ran also 
by quarries and by occasional factories, also 
through villages. And the quality of its 
sordidness is something that does not bear 
thinking of, a quality that has entered Italian 
life now, if it was not there before. 

Here and there, where there were quarries or 
industries, great lodging-houses stood naked 
by the road, great, grey, desolate places ; and 
squalid children were playing round the steps, 
and dirty men slouched in. Everything seemed 
under a weight. 



Down the road of the Ticino valley I felt 
again my terror of this new world which is 
coming into being on top of us. One always 
feels it in a suburb, on the edge of a town, 
where the land is being broken under the 
advance of houses. But this is nothing, in 
England, to the terror one feels on the new 
Italian roads, where these great blind cubes 
of dwellings rise stark from the destroyed 
earth, swarming with a sort of verminous life, 
really verminous, purely destructive. 

It seems to happen when the peasant 
suddenly leaves his home and becomes a work- 
man. Then an entire change comes over 
everywhere. Life is now a matter of selling 
oneself to slave-work, building roads or labour- 
ing in quarries or mines or on the railways, 
purposeless, meaningless, really slave -work, 
each integer doing his mere labour, and all 
for no purpose, except to have money, and to 
get away from the old system. 

These Italian navvies work all day long, 
their whole life is engaged in the mere 
brute labour. And they are the navvies of 
the world. And whilst they are nawying, 
they are almost shockingly indifferent to their 


circumstances, merely callous to the dirt and 

It is as if the whole social form were break- 
ing down, and the human element swarmed 
within the disintegration, like maggots in 
cheese. The roads, the railways are built, 
the mines and quarries are excavated, but the 
whole organism of life, the social organism, is 
slowly crumbling and caving in, in a kind of 
process of dry rot, most terrifying to see. So 
that it seems as though we should be left at 
last with a great system of roads and railways 
and industries, and a world of utter chaos 
seething upon these fabrications : as if we had 
created a steel framework, and the whole body 
of society were crumbling and rotting in 
between. It is most terrifying to realise ; and 
I have always felt this terror upon a new Italian 
high-road — more there than anywhere. 

The remembrance of the Ticino valley is 
a sort of nightmare to me. But it was better 
when at last, in the darkness of night, I got 
into Bellinzona. In the midst of the town 
one felt the old organism still living. It is 
only at its extremities that it is falling to 
pieces, as in dry rot. 



In the morning, leaving Bellinzona, again 
I went in terror of the new, evil high-road, 
with its skirting of huge cubical houses and 
its seething navvy population. Only the 
peasants driving in with fruit were consoling. 
But I was afraid of them ; the same spirit 
had set in in them. 

I was no longer happy in Switzerland, not 
even when I was eating great blackberries 
and looking down at the Lago Maggiore, at 
Locarno, lying by the lake ; the terror of the 
callous, disintegrating process was too strong 
in me. 

At a little inn a man was very good to me. 
He went into his garden and fetched me the 
first grapes and apples and peaches, bringing 
them in amongst leaves, and heaping them 
before me. He was Italian-Swiss ; he had 
been in a bank in Bern ; now he had retired, 
had bought his paternal home, and was a free 
man. He was about fifty years old ; he 
spent all his time in his garden ; his daughter 
attended to the inn. 

He talked to me, as long as I stayed, about 
Italy and Switzerland and work and life. He 
was retired, he was free. But he was only 
305 X 


nominally free. He had only achieved freedom 
from labour. He knew that the system he 
had escaped at last, persisted, and would 
consume his sons and his grandchildren. He 
himself had more or less escaped back to the 
old form ; but as he came with me on to the 
hill-side, looking down the high-road at Lugano 
in the distance, he knew that his old order was 
collapsing by a slow process of disintegration. 

Why did he talk to me as if I had any hope, 
as if I represented any positive truth as against 
this great negative truth that was advancing 
up the hill-side. Again I was afraid. I 
hastened down the high-road, past the houses, 
the grey, raw crystals of corruption. 

I saw a girl with handsome bare legs, ankles 
shining like brass in the sun. She was working 
in a field, on the edge of a vineyard. I stopped 
to look at her, suddenly fascinated by her 
handsome naked flesh that shone like brass. 

Then she called out to me, in a jargon I 
could not understand, something mocking 
and challenging. And her voice was raucous 
and challenging; I went on, afraid. 

In Lugano I stayed at a German hotel. I 
remember sitting on a seat in the darkness by 


the lake, watching the stream of promenaders 
patrolling the edge of the water, under the 
trees and the lamps. I can still see many of 
their faces : English, German, Italian, French. 
And it seemed here, here in this holiday-place, 
was the quick of the disintegration, the dry- 
rot, in this dry, friable flux of people backwards 
and forwards on the edge of the lake, men 
and women from the big hotels, in evening 
dress, curiously sinister, and ordinary visitors, 
and tourists, and workmen, youths, men of 
the town, laughing, jeering. It was curiously 
and painfully sinister, almost obscene, 

I sat a long time among them, thinking of 
the girl with her limbs of glowing brass. Then 
at last I went up to the hotel, and sat in the 
lounge looking at the papers. It was the same 
here as down below, though not so intense, 
the feeling of horror. 

So I went to bed. The hotel was on the 
edge of a steep declivity. I wondered why 
the whole hills did not slide down, in some great 
natural catastrophe. 

In the morning I walked along the side of 
the Lake of Lugano, to where I could take a 
steamer to ferry me down to the end. The 


lake is not beautiful, only picturesque. 1 
liked most to think of the Romans coming 
to it. 

So I steamed down to the lower end of the 
water. When I landed and went along by a 
sort of railway I saw a group of men. Suddenly 
they began to whoop and shout. They were 
hanging on to an immense pale bullock, which 
was slung up to be shod ; and it was lunging 
and kicking with terrible energy. It was 
strange to see that mass of pale, soft-looking 
flesh working with such violent frenzy, con- 
vulsed with violent, active frenzy, whilst men 
and women hung on to it with ropes, hung on 
and weighed it down. But again it scattered 
some of them in its terrible convulsion. 
Human beings scattered into the road, the 
whole place was covered with hot dung. And 
when the bullock began to lunge again, the 
men set up a howl, half of triumph, half of 

I went on, not wanting to see. I went 
along a very dusty road. But it was not so 
terrifying, this road. Perhaps it was older. 

In dreary little Chiasso I drank coffee, and 
watched the come and go through the Customs. 


The Swiss and the Italian Customs officials 
had their offices within a few yards of each 
other, and everybody must stop. I went in 
and showed my Rucksack to the Italian, then 
I mounted a tram, and went to the Lake of 

In the tram were dressed-up women, 
fashionable, but business-like. They had come 
by train to Chiasso, or else had been shopping 
in the town. 

When we came to the terminus a young 
miss, dismounting before me, left behind her 
parasol. I had been conscious of my dusty, 
grimy appearance as I sat in the tram, I knew 
they thought me a workman on the roads. 
However, I forgot that when it was time to 

" Pardon, Mademoiselle,** I said to the 
young miss. She turned and withered me 
with a rather overdone contempt — " bour- 
geoise,** I said to myself, as I looked at her — 
" Vous avez laiss^ votre parasol.** 

She turned, and with a rapacious movement 

darted upon her parasol. How her soul was 

in her possessions! I stood and watched her. 

Then she went into the road and under the 



trees, haughty, a demoiselle. She had on 
white kid boots. 

I thought of the Lake of Como what I had 
thought of Lugano : it must have been 
wonderful when the Romans came there. 
Now it is all villas. I think only the sunrise 
is still wonderful, sometimes. 

I took the steamer down to Como, and slept 
in a vast old stone cavern of an inn, a remark- 
able place, with rather nice people. In the 
morning I went out. The peace and the by- 
gone beauty of the cathedral created the glow 
of the great past. And in the market-place 
they were selling chestnuts wholesale, great 
heaps of bright, brown chestnuts, and sacks 
of chestnuts, and peasants very eager selling 
and buying. I thought of Como, it must have 
been wonderful even a hundred years ago. 
Now it is cosmopolitan, the cathedral is like a 
relic, a museum object, everywhere stinks of 
mechanical money-pleasure. 

I dared not risk walking to Milan : I took 
a train. And there, in Milan, sitting in the 
Cathedral Square, on Saturday afternoon, drink- 
ing Bitter Campari and watching the swarm 
of Italian city-men drink and talk vivaciously, 


I saw that here the life was still vivid, here 
the process of disintegration was vigorous, and 
centred in a multiplicity of mechanical activities 
that engage the human mind as well as the body. 
But always there was the same purpose stink- 
ing in it all, the mechanising, the perfect 
mechanising of human life. 






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